Therapeutic program through mindfulness approaches
I am neither a writer nor a blogger, however, there is very important information that I would like to share with you with the hope that it will assist and help your children navigate in their daily challenges.
Are you dealing with a distracted Kid? ADD, ADHA, Executive Function deficit? Studies show that our kids can train their brains and conquer the ability of paying attention through mindfulness and meditation. Parents are worried about their children’s focus and attention, and currently, it is a huge issue at school. Attention is an important key to understanding and assimilation knowledge, lectures, rules, social behaviors and more, allowing the children to succeed in their natural environment and different settings
Additionally, it’s very important to understand that the attention development in our kids is achieved when the kiddos can self-regulate. When we ask our kids to pay attention we need to be clear what we are asking them; are we asking them to focus on one thing and ignore the rest of the world around? or are we asking them to pay attention to their bodies, thoughts, and sensation, to understand how to regulate themselves? ; or maybe we are asking them to juggle in between focus and paying attention to themselves, so they can self-regulate while at the same time paying attention to the things in their surroundings.
So, parents and caregivers, I invite to read these two approaches that maybe can be helpful to orientate your kids about how to pay attention.
I found a very interesting perspective on the book titled “Distracted”. The Author Maggie Jackson reveals the concept of Paying Attention to the kids in an easy and simple way, using a familiar language. When we explain to our kids the process of paying attention, they will be more open to practicing it with a purpose. Another point the author touches is about the caregivers as guides; if the caregivers don’t know much about attention, how will they help in managing it? How are they going to teach it? We need to understand it and be aware of the concept of paying attention in order to teach it to our kids.
I would like to reveal two perspectives about how attention works, one from the contemplative practice by Dr. Wallace, and the other one based on neuroscience by Dr. Michael Posner. He is one of the biggest figures in the world of the neurosciences. He explains in his work ‘Anatomy of Attentional Network’ the process of Attention as a complex system which can be altered by experience and improved by training. He explains three networks, the alerting network in charge of maintaining the alertness of mental state, the orienting network in charge of orienting the attention of the individual toward the sensory event, and the executive network in charge of allowing the person take control and solve problems.
Working with technology neuro-imaging allowed Dr. Posner to explain and conceptualize the process of attention externally, with the help of MRI. On the other hand, Dr. Alan Wallace assesses attention internally using meditation practice known as Shamatha. This meditation has ten stages of training, its processes start with a mind that cannot be focus more than few seconds and ends in the state where the mind can sustain the focus for hours. In his book ‘Attention Revolution’, Wallace explains how mindfulness breathing offers immense benefits to develop a stable attention. In the article “Theoretical Foundation of mindfulness and evidence for its salutary effects”, professor Kick Warren Brown, Richard M. Ryan and J David Creswell write that early research indicates mindfulness may be linked with the primary attention networks exposed by Dr. Michael Posner.
Wallace and Posner’s studies are very interesting; they both reveal that kids are able to train their brains improving their focus an attention. Through the training, Kids are able to develop the capability to bring back the wandering mind toward the point of interest and be focused on it, over and over again. Like a person training at the gym repeating the exercises to develop a muscle or to gain a certain shape. When the kids understand how the brain changes, making neuronal connections every time they choose to manage and re-direct their attention, they comprehend the relation between their effort and the result.
By establishing positive connections with themselves, having confidence and an understanding of how to manage their ability to pay attention, your kids will understand the necessity of choosing the right domain to give it their time and focus. During my practice teaching Yoga Therapeutic based on mindfulness approach and sensory integration, I have been able to see kids changing their attitude when they finally understand the importance of being conscious about paying attention. If they can regulate their senses, kids are able to shape their brains, it is giving them the power to manage their achievements, contributing to their holistic growing in areas as socialization, emotional, cognitive, mental, and physical.
Breathing for Attention:
Here are some quick, simple steps for a breathing game to practice with your child and to improve their attention skills and relaxation.
• From sitting position on the floor or bed, invite your child to play beside you and ask him to shake his hands and arms while he says the letter A; ask the child for another vowel and as they continue shaking and vocalizing; it will be fun and will prepare the kid for relaxation mood. This also will help the kid to be centered and self-regulated.
• Second, lie comfortably on your back, and imagine a word that makes you feel happy. Ask your kid to do the same, and be ready to accept the suggestion from him, maybe he wants to think about a color or an image, the point is to help him to feel comfortable during the activity.
• Third, ask your kid to breathe in, or inhale in deep to fill in his body as a balloon, when lungs are full, start a long breathing out keeping the word in your mind, explain to the child, you are spreading the word, color or image when you exhale.
Repeat at least three times, the focus on the word or image plus the breathing will help him with his attention. The more you practice the more he will master it, eventually, he will not need the word, and he will be able to focus just on the breathing and the sensation of it in his body.
It can be practiced before homework, before going to sleep or any moment he needs to engage his focus, attention or relaxation. Explain to your kid that the same way he /she is doing in this practice, he/she can manage the attention when he/she is at school, by first, bringing the focus to the breath, and second re-directing the focus toward the chosen item.
I hope you find it interesting and useful and thank you for allowing me to participate in your child’s world.
1. The Attention Revolution by Dr. Allance Wallance.
2. Distracted by Maggie Jackson
3. Anatomy of Attentional networks by Michael Posner.
4. The Mindful Child by Susan Kaiser Greeland