Even today, my kids still need some of those same strategies I used when they were babies to help them self-regulate and to support development, and guess what? So do yours. Today, I'll tell you how with 7 examples that are as easy as they come and won't cost a dime. Much gratitude to Inspired Treehouse for the invitation to write this post as a part of their Happy New Year, Healthy Kids series!
Remember your baby swing? How about a baby carrier of some kind? Oh, and what about those collections of muslin blankets with things like polka dots or bumble bees printed all over? I do. Quite well, actually, because I spent the majority of my days as a new mom learning which of these things calmed each of my daughters and how.
My kids preferred so much movement as babies that I remember catching myself standing in a grocery store line, bouncing and swaying away as if I had a baby in my arms. What I was actually holding was my purse! Face palm! I was used to giving my babies LOTS of movement (and also, my brain doesn't work very well without sleep).
My friend Jane* recently discovered the ultimate secret for helping a child have better attention and academic success. This “secret” is really just a highly overlooked, evidence-based strategy that’s free, accessible to everyone, completely safe and natural. Oh, and it improves academic outcomes, too. Jackpot.
Jane figured it out when her six-year-old daughter, Lucy, was mid-morning in her home-school lesson and refused to sit at the desk for math. Instead, Lucy climbed into her yoga hammock, a stretchy fabric swing the family had installed in their school room. She began to play and hang upside down in the hammock so Jane offered Lucy a compromise—to have a math lesson in the hammock.
I was lucky enough to watch the account firsthand because Jane, fascinated by what transpired, took a video recording and shared it with me. And the video demonstrates so beautifully what science now proves:
Heads up: to truly demonstrate the "big picture" as the title indicates, this article was destined to be comprehensive (a.k.a. lengthy). But I've got your back in a busy world! I broke down the strategies into divided sections with a short summary in bold so if you aren't able to read the article in it's entirety, you can navigate easily and quickly through this article by skimming through divided sections and reading the type in bold to take what you need in a way that fits with the time you have available.
When my first daughter was born and baffled the entire dozen of consulted healthcare professionals as to why she couldn't suck-swallow from anything other than a tiny drip tube, I slept no more than 3 hours at a time (and very infrequently) for 5 days straight in efforts to nourish her sufficiently.
At the end of those 5 days of almost constant wakefulness, I began having heart palpitations and had difficulty understanding simple conversations and calculating time on the clock. As an occupational therapist, my first thought was worst case neurological scenario: I was having a stroke, of course. I called the nurse hotline in a panic, barely able to figure out how to dial.
I couldn't even problem solve well enough to understand that my issues were likely sleep-deprivation related until my husband calmly took my pulse, talked to the nurse on the line and then kindly suggested I go to sleep.
I managed to sleep 7 hours that 6th night and arose a renewed, stroke suspicion free woman that could thankfully add 2+2 again.
From that moment on, I had a new understanding for Jim Butcher's quote, "Sleep is God. Go worship." I've been a teensy bit of a sleep advocate (okay, a HUGE sleep advocate) ever since. I consider sleep my nightly worship at the temple of good brain function and you bet your bottom dollar I do my best to make sure my kids do the same.
Except I happened to have kids that would rather do anything in the world other than sleep.
Funny how life turns out, isn't it?
In my house, this time of year is killer. KILL-ER, I tell ya.
I for one, just love me some lazy summer mornings and late summer evenings (emphasis on the late summer evenings). Turns out, so do my kiddos.
I'm not sure which brilliant mind decided upon setting our elementary school start time to 7:35 in the almost-dusk-of-the-morning, but that's what we are headed towards in less than 2 weeks.
Enough procrastination already.
It's time to start crackin' on my treasure trove of mindful sleep secrets for making the often arduous experience of getting kids to SLEEP (for Heaven's sake, kids, GO. TO. SLEEP.) a little easier so we can have just a teensy weensy bit of sweet time to either a) do whatever the heck we want or b) go to sleep, too.
I gotta tell ya, I'm a big fan of choice b, myself.
You know who else I'm a big fan of?
The Inspired Treehouse!
Having a child that demonstrates physically aggressive behavior when you are a parent that teaches otherwise is like a blindsided punch, and it hits right where it hurts most: our big 'ol hearts.
As a mama, I've personally lived the reality of this one, and I've had so many parents reaching out for support on this subject that I know I'm not alone here. Neither are you.
Neurodevelopmentally speaking, it's typical for young kids to have just a little gray area between calm, cool and collected and and upset, but it's really tough when your child's version of upset is likened to a child warrior.
It was a kick in the head when my young child began demonstrating aggressive behavior despite the fact I take great care to avoid physical aggression in our home and teach otherwise.
I used my occupational therapy experience and my yoga practice wisdom to make as many mindful adjustments I could to our family environment and our daily schedule. This lessened the aggressive behavior significantly and brought it to a place where we could all manage it with healthy coping techniques, but the initial impulse toward aggression didn't and still hasn't completely disappeared. And that's okay.
Some sun salutations and mindfulness practice helped me feel okay with the fact that I can't completely control every environment, how my daughter feels in her body and how she reacts to everything. That's her work to do for herself and her path to walk.
Offering her healthy coping strategies and calm support while also being okay about not "fixing" her every struggle is my work and my journey to travel. Maybe it's yours, too.
If so, I want to share my short-list of mind & body strategy favs with you 'cause I love to share good stuff that helps our kiddos feel good in their own skin. Also, we could use a little more kindness and supportive community on this journey of raising kids in today's world. I'll do my best to pull my own weight in this effort.
These suggestions are from my field of expertise, but I'm not an expert for your child. You are. Honor what works best for you and your own family, and take what I have here and modify it in whatever way feels most well aligned with your parenting philosophies and practical everyday life.
Now, let's tackle aggression with some brain and body techniques!
I recently bumped into a friend at our neighborhood library, and she hurriedly pulled me aside for the few precious minutes we might have to chat as our kids thumbed through stacks of summer reads.
She was worried about her 6 year old daughter, who is well advanced for her age in several academic areas. The mom tells me that because her daughter is academically gifted, many think that her daughter has it easy, so to speak. Her mom tells me the bigger picture is that she feels her daughter has poor focus for some rather simple things, explosive emotional reactions and big resistance to simple daily routines and everyday transitions. "She doesn't qualify for therapy under our insurance, and I can't afford to pay for it out of pocket," she states with disappointment, "but you do this kind of work, right?" she asks. I nod and lean in. "Isn't there something I could do at home to support her?"
One of the most frequent questions I hear from parents is how to help their kids manage fears, anxiety, negative thinking, difficulty with attention at school and explosive or disruptive behavior. Whew! And wouldn't you know, there's no easy answer to that doozie of a question.
As a mama myself, I feel that it's overwhelming to watch my kids struggle, and often, my knee-jerk reaction is a yearn to "fix" it. But as JFK said, "The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining!" Though there are some mindful and helpful things we can do as parents or educators to support our kids in the moment of struggle, the best strategy to offer them is to give opportunities for
Last fall, a concerned mother brought her 7-year-old son to my aerial yoga & mindfulness classes in hopes he could "learn to be calmer" because he was getting into loads of trouble in school and at home. The mother was distraught and the boy was losing faith in his own ability to control himself and his intense feelings and movement needs. It was heartbreaking to see him so uncomfortable in his own skin because I knew about him what I know about all kids: they always do their very best given their resources, environment and abilities. No exceptions. When he first came to yoga class, I noticed he couldn't sing "Om" for more than a few seconds before needing to take another breath, and any time he got excited, frustrated, worried—you name the emotion, his breathing pattern was erratic and his breaths...
As a parent in the fast, technology driven modern day, I often feel pulled in so many directions between my family, my career and my own needs. As an OT and yoga teacher, I see that same struggle reflected in so many families that I serve. That's why I've spent the past several years researching, studying and practicing for myself and others that feel drawn to a more peaceful, sensory informed life. In this video, I'll reveal the 8 essentials I use in my own life and that I custom tailor for the families I serve. These 8 essentials are...
There is recent neuroscience which demonstrates that having a gratitude practice can offer up amazing mental and physical health benefits such as stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, feeling more connected to others, and an increased perception of joy, optimism and happiness.
It’s important to emphasize that a gratitude practice positively affects any brain at any age, and a happy brain lends to an individual that learns more, makes neural connections faster, has positive relationships through life and fights off illnesses better. For a child that struggles with anxiety, attention or any sensory processing preferences,
Lindsey Lieneck, MS, OTR, RYT, is owner of Yogapeutics in Austin, TX where she has developed the Yogapeutics Aerial Yoga & Mindfulness curriculum for kids. She teaches classes, consults with parents & schools and educates other professionals on the Yogapeutics curriculum. Read more about Lindsey HERE.
See the Yogapeutics class schedule and offerings: