I just completed working on a publicity campaign at Smith Publicity for The Dolphin’s Secret: A Meditational Journey for Children book by Yoga Nidra facilitator Meryl Best Lowell. The Dolphin’s Secret introduces children to Yoga Nidra—an ancient form of guided meditation which incorporates a sequence of mindfulness techniques—and encourages them to add it to their lives in order to feel calmer and happier. The book weaves how-to steps into the whimsical story of Meri, a beautiful mermaid, and her friend Aloha, a dolphin. Using The Dolphin’s Secret, parents and teachers can lead children ages 4-8 in these exercises as they lay down before naptime or bedtime. My daughter and I love it.
During our time working together, I asked Meryl for tips about how to turn time-outs into a positive experience for the kids. I don’t know about your kids, but when my 4.5 year old is in time-out, all she does is scream and cry. I set the timer on Amazon Alexa for about five minutes and have her sit down until the timer goes chimes. It’s ear-piercing and heart-wrenching.
I asked Meryl if she had suggestions on ways parents can redefine time-outs. She had great ideas! Here’s what she said:
A more empowering method is to talk with our children about how it is important for all of us to come up with strategies to use when we are feeling mad, sad, scared, or challenged in some way. Then brainstorm with your child when they are feeling good, and create a list of activities to be used to shift their energy and thoughts when they act out. Different emotions may call for different strategies and kids may sooth themselves in different ways.
The first strategy would be to try to head off a sense of overwhelm before it occurs by having the child listen to a Yoga Nidra or other guided meditation. Yoga Nidra is an ancient form of meditation, done while laying down. It incorporates a sequence of mindfulness techniques that relax the body and quiet the mind. In just 15-30 minutes, your mind stops racing and your body becomes relaxed. After practicing Yoga Nidra, your children will be recharged and ready for the rest of their day.
Other mindfulness tools such as simple yoga postures and breathing techniques can be fun and calming. Cat and cow pose done while making sound effects is a great way to introduce children to yoga postures. When done silently, coordinating the breath with the movement between cat and cow, this gentle flow relieves stress and helps to quiet the mind. “Dandelion breath” or straw sheetali breath is a breathing technique in which the child inhales slowly through the nose then exhales slowly through the mouth as if they are blowing the seeds of a dried dandelion or through a small straw. According to the Amrit Yoga Institute, “this breath is particularly calming for kids and teaches them how to breathe deeply.” It is “good for tiredness, crankiness, blood sugar spikes and drops.”
If the point of no return is reached, then it is time to reach for the menu of activities that have been discussed ahead of time. Five possible activities to include on the menu:
- Drawing or coloring to let your child express their feelings
- Blowing bubbles to encourage deep breathing which calms the body
- Enjoy a soothing bubble bath
- “Dance it out!” like Cristina and Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy
I plan on implementing some of these ideas. If you try them out with your littles, let me know how it goes!
Lesson learned from this post: Redefining time-outs can teach children how to better handle their emotions, manage stress and encourage mindfulness for everyone.