I'm putting the final touches on the Sense of Peace sensory and yoga based workshop for parents this week. I created 10 principles, on which I based the workshop, but I'd like to share these principles with everyone because I think they are like wise guiding arrows that help uncover the way along this obscure parenting path. If we can put these principles into place, we can demonstrate to our children a happy, peaceful adult life well worth the childhood efforts of self-regulation and mind/body health.
1. Kids wholeheartedly want to do their best for themselves and others! Children want to demonstrate behavior that is good for themselves and their families. When behavior is out of line, unhealthy or socially unacceptable be sure to check for sensory triggers first. Try to look at the child’s experience through a sensory lens including evaluating all of the day’s activities leading up to the behavior.
2. Educate. Experiment. Over & Over. Kids experiencing a sensory difference don’t understand that others may experience the same sensory information differently unless they are taught this concept repetitively in many contexts. Practice and experiment with various tools or methods to best understand your and your child’s sensory needs. It's ok if they need 57 repetitions. At least, try to let that be ok. Then, as soon as you are both cool with it, know the needs may change and vary as the body and mind matures and develops. Soap. Rinse. Repeat. You can do this. I promise.
3. Be your child's scaffolding, and add a healthy serving of yoga and sensory enrichment to be the mortar for their materials. Much like building a complex architectural structure with different angles and convolutions, raising a child is a complex development. Every kid needs external, solid scaffolding as her brain constructs and develops. This external scaffolding, like that of a building, provides stability so the child can build upon herself and grow. With maturation, that stability is internalized so most of the scaffolding can be taken away and the child can stand independently through the weather of life. The parent’s compassion & guidance, along with sensory enrichment, breathing techniques, and sensory modifications are the strong, solid scaffolding and solid mortar for the raising of a child. Now, I don't mean helicopter through your child's development, but I do mean support your child with compassion, education about the need for movement and breathing, and just keep a rooted and calm presence. Often, what they need most is just the silent solid strength of a parent beside them, guiding them upright when they might collapse, but just connecting next to them as a solid presence as they begin to hold on their own. Remember; where there is construction, there are always periods where things get messy, dirty and precarious! Keep calm, carry on through the hard hat zone and know that organization arrives with further structural completion.
4. Front load to avoid the meltdown mother lode. When it comes to sensory differences, you are going to spend extra time addressing the issue any way you approach it, so remember to frontload some preventative measures and invite sensory enrichment as well as yoga and deep breathing into the daily routine to save you time on the back end of a meltdown or emotional stalemate.
5. Integrate sensory and yoga or deep breathing into your every day routines as they are. Don’t add sensory enrichment or yoga to your already full plate! Be gentle with your busy self! Instead, integrate these approaches into tasks you already do (bear walk from the kitchen to the bathroom, do some deep pressure massage as your child is settling into bed and wrapping up the day's routine, gallop on your walk to school, offer a fidget toy in the car as you drive, etc). This increases meaning and purpose, which increases the positive effect on the brain and self-regulation.
6. Move, breathe, hug. The brain is designed to require frequent movement of various kinds and to receive positive physical connection from others to best attend, process information and learn. Deep breathing is the most efficient way to come out of a stress response. Be aware that our modern day life typically does not naturally provide the necessary level of movement, breathing breaks and positive physical connection. It is our responsibility and health necessity to build these experiences in for ourselves.
7. A few minutes does a body good! Relaxation techniques and sensory enrichment are practical and efficient! It takes 20 minutes for a brain to shift gears out of fight, flight or freeze, but as little as 3-5 minutes to change self-confidence and self-talk when utilizing movement, breathing and posturing. For a 15-20 minute appropriately applied sensory rich activity, the positive effects can last hours!
8. You can positively help the whole shebang! Sensory strategies and yoga are all encompassing and integral. You can’t work on one thing without affecting many others! What benefits a part, benefits the whole! Additionally, sensory strategies and yoga don’t "change" the child, but allows positive neural wiring that supports the child as he is and allows him to thrive authentically amidst natural tendencies and sensory differences.
9. You have 'em? Me too. And that's a good thing! We all have sensory differences, and we all naturally self-regulate using sensory strategies whether we are aware of it or not (walk when you talk on the phone? Cross your legs and wiggle/bounce your foot when sitting? Take a breath and sigh when you are tired/frustrated/at wits end?). We all have sensory differences and preferences and tendencies. They are actually GOOD for us! We only need to offer environmental modifications or support/advocate for these differences when they interfere with the ability to move through life with peace and ease.
10. You are the expert. Yoga is the light. Sensory is the path. A child’s primary caregiver(s)/teachers as well as the child are the best experts on what the child needs are to support his or her natural tendencies so that he or she may thrive in any natural environment and grow to be his/herself. A primary caregiver can have the greatest insight and make the most significant impact on the way the world is shaped for the child. You know yourself and your child best. Trust your instinct, but continue to learn each other and physically connect with each other. The two of you are intimately and beautifully intertwined. Stand strong knowing that just like yoga brings the mind and body into healthy union, understanding sensory differences for children and accepting them as they are with support, love and sensory enrichment brings you into healthy union with each other and sustains a sense of peace amidst any of life's chaos.
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.
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