How to protect your child’s mental health with mindfulness

10:10 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

This week is Mental Health Week here in Australia. And on October 10, we celebrate World Mental Health Day. This is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and reducing the stigma associated with these debilitating illnesses.

Mental health, but particularly youth mental health, is something I’m very passionate about. My entire career as a psychologist has been spent working in mental health. I have seen first hand, the damage mental illness can have on young people and their families. 

But I have also seen the positive relationship between mindfulness and mental health. I’ve seen the powerful effects of mindfulness. And the research agrees with me. Mindfulness build healthy minds. Which is of course, why I started Mindful Little Minds! I believe that teaching kids mindfulness skills can have a hugely beneficial impact on rates of mental illness in children and can drastically improve their mental wellbeing.

So just in case you need more reasons to practice mindfulness with your kids, here are 6 ways mindfulness can protect, support, and improve your child’s mental health.

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5 fun Christmas mindfulness activities for kids

10:08 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

So I don’t want you to panic….but Christmas is less than 6 weeks away. And…December 1st is only 2 weeks away. You know what that means, right?

Well, Christmas is coming of course. But it’s also time to start thinking about your advent calendar, if you’re planning one. Now I love advent calendars. I love the excitement and anticipation they create in the lead up to Christmas day. And I love watching my kids excited little faces each day when they open up the calendar to discover what’s inside.

But I have also found them a little problematic in previous years. For example, when my oldest two children were still very young, we tried the store bought, chocolate per day type of advent calendar. But that didn’t feel particularly meaningful for our family.

So then we tried creating our own advent calendar and including a small treat or trinket each day, like a mini candy cane, a sticker, or stamp or small toy. But I wasn’t a fan of all the tiny plastic things we accumulated when we did this. And again, it didn’t feel meaningful for us.

So next we moved to an activity based advent calendar, which seemed like a better fit. I’m all about shared experiences over things for the sake of things. And that worked well for a little while. But eventually, it started to get on top of us. We would inevitably try to do too much in the name of Christmas fun. Activities became expensive, and time consuming and elaborate and after a full day of work we would just be too damn tired to do yet another Christmas craft. So that kind of all fell apart too.

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Meditation for children: 8 reasons to start right now

10:04 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

We all want our kids to be happy and healthy, right?! But research tells us that right now, our children are actually more stressed than ever. They are living in a world that expects more of them than it ever has. And it shows. Difficulties like depression, anxiety, ADHD and behaviour problems are on the rise. Our children are struggling.

But meditation can help. And this Thursday May 21st is World Meditation Day. So what better time is there to talk about meditation for children (and its amazing benefits)?!

What are the benefits? Well, studies suggest that meditation can help children develop a range of pro social behaviours. Things like improved empathy, better self control, less aggression and improved attention. It’s also been found to help with difficulties such as anxiety, depression, stress, ADHD, and low self esteem. Sounds like the perfect antidote doesn’t it?!

Yeah. It is! So let’s talk about why your child should be meditating and how to get started.

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How to teach kids empathy

1:10 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

I recently shared a post on social media about the language parents use when communicating with children about their emotions. In the post, I recommended that parents avoid telling their kids that their actions “make” them feel sad (or happy, or angry or…well…you get the drift). And it caused a bit of a stir. Many people who commented on the post believed that using this language was teaching their kids empathy. They were surprised to learn that I didn’t agree. And they were left wondering how to teach kids empathy, if that wasn’t it.

So let me explain. Here’s how we really teach kids empathy.

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You don’t need to teach your child to share

1:08 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

Share. If you have young children, you probably say, or hear, that word about eleventy million times a day. Every time you go to a park, a playground, a playcentre, on a playdate, to a party. In your own lounge room. Dining room. Bedroom. Playroom. Hey, probably even the bathroom. We spend A LOT of time as parents encouraging our kids to share.

And I get it. None of us wants to be the parent of ‘that’ child. We are terrified that if we don’t teach our kids how to share when they are young, they will grow up to be selfish and entitled. The kid no one invites to parties or playdates. We don’t want that for our kids. Or for ourselves!

We want to raise kind, generous kids who get along well with others. And it’s our job to guide them and teach them and ensure that happens right? But what if what we’re doing is actually making things worse?

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5 fun mindful breathing exercises that help kids calm down

1:02 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

Mindful breathing is a simple and effective way to introduce your child to mindfulness and help them learn how to calm their minds and bodies.

Why? Because when the nervous system is under stress, the fight or flight response is triggered. When this happens, the body prepares to either escape or fight a physical threat. This leads to tension in the body, as well as rapid, shallow breathing, which can often further exacerbate stress, fear and overwhelm.

Deep, slow breathing activates the part of the nervous system responsible for switching off the fight or flight response. This sends a message to the brain that there is no longer any danger present and enables your child to calm down.

Mindful breathing alleviates stress and anxiety, and is a simple and effective way to teach children to regulate their emotions.

Teaching kids mindful breathing

Now here’s where it gets tricky. We often tell children to “take a deep breath” when they are feeling upset or overwhelmed. But kids don’t know what “take a deep breath” means. They don’t know HOW to take a deep breath. So simply telling them to do it isn’t going to work. Especially if they’re mid meltdown.

The best way to teach children mindful breathing, is to provide them with visual cues and other sensory feedback which helps them improve their focus and master the technique. We need to teach them in a fun way that they can actually understand by turning a somewhat abstract concept into something they can see and feel.

It is recommended that you do not try any of these mindful breathing exercises for the first time while your child is distressed. Practicing them while your child is in a relaxed and calm state means they will be more receptive to trying something new, and better able to learn the technique effectively.

Ready to get started? Here are 5 fun and easy mindful breathing exercises that help kids calm down

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6 fun Halloween mindfulness exercises for kids

12:59 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

When I think of Halloween, I think of fun games and activities, Halloween parties, yummy food, cute pumpkin crafts, adorable costumes, and getting together with neighbourhood friends to have a good laugh together. And while Halloween might be looking a bit different this year for lots of us, most of these things CAN still happen, and it doesn’t have to be any less fun! In fact, with trick or treating cancelled this year in places, this is a perfect opportunity to focus less on treats and more on health, wellness and connection with the people we love!

So today I’m giving you 6 of my favourite Halloween mindfulness exercises for kids. These activities come from my Mindful Little Halloween Activity Book and will help you make Halloween extra special and lots of fun for your little people this year, no matter what it’s going to look like.

And, while these activities are all playful and fun, they also all serve a very important purpose. They help your child learn about emotions and how to manage them, so that ultimately, you can have a calmer Halloween this year (and a calmer home too!).

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10 ways parents can calm down in the moment

12:53 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

One of the most frequent challenges parents tell me about is their inability to calm down in the moment. In the moment when your child is melting down over the colour of their cup. In the moment when they are yelling and flailing around on the floor. In the moment when they are screaming, “I hate you, go away!”. In the moment when you ask them to do something for the millionth time and they ignore you.

It’s hard to stay calm in those moments.

But you know you need to, right? You know that if you want to help your child learn how to effectively manage their emotions, then you need to learn how to manage your own first. And you’re frustrated and feeling like a failure because you just. can’t. Sound familiar?

Calm Begets Calm

The problem of course, is that when we meet our child’s big emotions with our own big emotions, the situation tends to escalate. But when we are able to remain calm ourselves, we are able to hold space for our child’s emotions. We are able to hear them, contain them, and reflect their feelings back to our kids in a way that helps them feel understood.

Most importantly, when we are able to stay calm and regulated in the midst of our children’s distress, we help them feel SAFE. And a nervous system that feels safe is a calm nervous system.

So the first step in helping our kids learn to self regulate, is to learn how to self regulate ourselves. If we can remain calm, and not fly off the handle, yell, lash out or use harsh tones with our kids when they are distressed, then we are able to soothe their distress and de-escalate the situation.

But HOW do you actually do that?

Well, the key is to get in early. When you are tuned into your own early warning signs you can put strategies in place to manage your emotions before they get out of hand. So, next time you start to feel your stress levels rising, try one of these strategies to calm down in the moment. They will help you calm down quickly so that you can respond to your child with intention, and help them feel calm too.

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You don’t need to learn how to control your emotions

12:47 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

So often, when I ask parents what they struggle with most when it comes to mindful parenting, they tell me it’s controlling their own emotions. They say things like:

  • “I lose it when my child doesn’t listen”
  • “I need to learn how to control my reactions”
  • “I lose my temper too much”
  • “I lose control when my child has a tantrum”
  • “I can’t control my anger”

And the other thing they tell me (often in the same breath) is how stressed they are right now:

  • “I have a newborn at home and I’m exhausted”
  • “I have no family around to support me”
  • “My kids are fighting all day long”
  • “I’m struggling with post-partum anxiety”
  • “I have no time to myself”
  • “I’m worried that I’m failing”

And so I’m not at all surprised that they can’t control their reactions under those circumstances. Of course they can’t! If this is you too, listen up, mama! You don’t need to know how to control your emotions. Your problem is not that you cannot control your emotions and reactions in those difficult moments. The problem is that you expect yourself to be able to! Because you are focusing on the symptom instead of the cause.

What you’re talking about, when you say “I can’t control myself” is exercising self control. But when you focus on self control in those difficult moments, you set yourself up to fail. What you need to be focusing on instead, is self regulation. And they’re not the same thing!

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How to help kids cope with major life changes

12:45 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

It can be hard for us as parents to know how to help kids with major life changes. But these changes and transitions are a part of life for everyone. Things like moving house, the death of loved ones, divorce, changing schools, or welcoming a new baby to the family, can all be hugely stressful for kids. And since their major life changes are often pretty major for us parents too, we often have no idea how to best help our kids though them.

But with a little bit of support from you, you CAN get through these difficult periods. In fact, these transition periods can even be an opportunity for learning, strengthening connections and building resilience and self confidence in your child.

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