This cute story follows Chester Chestnut through his miniature woodland world, as he faces everyday challenges & learns how to calm his worries. Chester deals with being the new boy at school, with stage fright & fear of the unknown & he does so by making use of some simple mindfulness techniques. The rhythmic, repeating actions introduce children in a catchy way to some basic tools that can help them to settle their minds & bodies. The invitation to take a deep breath & concentrate on what they can feel & hear is weaved into an entertaining & relatable adventure.
Many children with developmental trauma find self-awareness & self-control difficult. Because of this they are more likely to experience difficulties in building and maintaining meaningful & sociable relationships with other children and the caring adults in their lives. Research has shown that if practised regularly, mindfulness helps children to learn how to control the focus of their attention and also how to relax themselves in their body. When we focus our minds, we begin to understand ourselves more. Then we are more open to being in relationship with others. In family therapy, we can try to find lots of fun, playful ways to encourage practising mindfulness. Children can experience that self-awareness doesn’t have to be hard work – we can find it with an attitude of playfulness and acceptance.
I remember one little boy that came to therapy with his adoptive parents that would rush into the room like a whirlwind, barely seeming to notice anyone around him but intent on getting into everything. By introducing some fun challenges to catch his attention, we were slowly able to engage him in slowing down. Seeing who could remain quietest whilst watching a spinning top (& who could shout stop first when it rolled over!). Counting our breaths whilst we watched the snow settle in a snow globe. Seeing who could spot three red things in the therapy room. Passing a hand squeeze at varying speed around the family group – these were just some of our structured games together. & always continuing only as long as the little boy was engaged & having fun. The day that he came to therapy & really seemed to see me, I knew that he was beginning to feel more grounded & more open to connection.
Facilitating Mindful Parenting Groups has become an important part of my work also. What we can learn through practising mindfulness ourselves as parents & carers is that we can be most effective in nurturing our child’s well-being if we also have the ability to be attentive & patient with ourselves. If we can treat ourselves with the kindness & curiosity that we wish for our child. If we can embody these traits & model them for our child, they are far more likely to learn to trust their own thoughts & feelings and to believe in their abilities.
Reading books like Imagine Eating Lemons is another great way for child & adult together to explore serious ideas and important life skills of emotional regulation & awareness, in an accessible, gentle & enjoyable way.