By Kathryn Boland, Guest Blogger and Flow and Grow Kids' Yoga Social Media Manager
Every parent has been there -- when your child is stomping, crying, screaming, and you feel completely at a loss for how to calm them down. There's also those moments when your child is energetic and active to the point of being quite irritating, even sometimes a threat to their own safety. As hard as these situations can be, it can be significantly more difficult if you have more than one child experiencing such emotions and resulting behaviors. Yoga can offer many things, to many people of different ages and personal conditions, and one of them is an increased ability to shape one's own emotion and cognition.
In cases when both parent and child could use a boost to mental and emotional state, doing yoga together could do the trick. The connection that also results from practicing together can also strengthen bonds in between parents and their children, helping them to navigate such tricky times in the future. Let's look at a sequence for parents to lead children in balancing their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and in the process allowing them to handle the subjective difficulties they're also experiencing.
*The sequence is written as the parent as the leader, but you may of course allow your child to lead certain sections if they are in the mental and emotional state to do so. In fact, doing so could further re-focus and calm them, as well help to instill leadership skills.
**Use behavioral modification techniques, such as positive reinforcement (for example, ten extra minutes of television time later if they follow your instructions), if necessary to have your child engage in the sequence with you.
Breathwork to settle
As best you can, have your child(ren) sit, preferably in Easy Pose (what they may know, from school, as “criss-cross applesauce”). Sit up tall and straight, and ask them how tall and straighttheycan sit.
First, meet them where they are at. Take Lion's Breath, opening your mouth and "roaring" with an audible exhale. Repeat that two more times. Ask your child(ren) to follow you, feeling their powerful stomach move their powerful breath. This breath technique creates more exhalation than inhalation, which cools the body and calms the nervous system.
Then, take calmer, more typical breaths. Take one hand to your chest, and breath deeply into that space as well into your other hand still on your belly. Take ten full, deep breaths like this, still making your breaths out longer than your breaths in. Ask your child to follow you. If they need help remaining engaged, ask them to imagine blowing up a big balloon in their chest and belly; how big can they blow it?
As throughout, use behavioral modification techniques as needed. Notice if your child(ren) have become any calmer, and if you may have as well!
Most children absolutely love animals. Playing with their movements and sounds with yoga poses can help calm and center them. Start with Cat and Cow -- set up Tabletop Pose and go to Cow Pose by dropping your belly down and breathing in, and Cat Pose by arching your back up and breathing in. Take that a few more times, and ask your child(ren) to follow you. Feel free to make a mooing sound in Cow Pose, and a meowing sound on Cat Pose.
Then, walk your hands a little farther forward, into Downward-Facing Dog. This is Puppy Pose. Tell your child(ren) that you'll be happy, playful little puppies. Make a little barking noise and wag your tail. Encourage your child(ren) to follow you if they don't naturally by now. Breathe deeply, smile, and see if you can even have fun!
Ground into the balls of your feet, to lift your hips to the sky for Downward-Facing Dog. Tell your child(ren) that you've grown into big doggies now, and make slightly louder barks. Urge your children to follow, if they don't naturally.
Drop your knees and then lower your belly to the ground. Lengthen your heart forward, which will lift you up. This is Cobra Pose. Tell your child that you'll be friendly snakes, having them follow your lead. Make a hissing sound as you rise. Lower back down to rest. Lift and lower two more times.
Park Time and Closing
Most children also love going to the park. Imaginative play can also take them away from negative emotion and behavior, into something more positive. Start by telling your child(ren) that you'll be playing in the park. Reach up and interlace your fingers and push your palms to the sky. Bend to one side and tell your child(ren) that you're flying kites. Hold for a few breaths and then reach up and bend the other way. Then sway back and forth, telling your child(ren) that your kite is caught in a breeze.
Then lead your child(ren) in Tree Pose -- standing on the right leg with the left foot on the right thigh, calf, or ankle. Take the hands to the heart or raise them up to have branches sprout up to the sky. Hold for a few breaths and take the same with the other leg.
Time to pick flowers! Lower to a seat, with legs out in front. Start reaching forward and pretend to pick a flower, then pretending to sniff it. This is Seated Forward Bend. Ask your child to do the same, if they don't naturally follow. You can get creative from there, such as with reaching behind to each side to twist, reaching forwards again, or any number of movements here. Remind your child(ren) that time in nature can make us feel settled and joyful.
Now it's time to rest! Ask your child to lie down on their backs, in the (in your imagination) soft, sweet-smelling grass. Ask them to simply breathe, noticing how it feels as they do, for a few more breaths. Tell them to imagine the softness of the grass and warmth of the sun on their skin, the smell of flowers, and the sounds of birds chirping.
After ten full, deep breaths, have them sit up, and bowNamasteto them -- having them follow your lead. Ask them how they feel after practice, and see what discussion might evolve from there. Notice how you feel!
At this time, parents have to act as teachers as well as parents and professionals (in their careers outside of family life). Kids are adjusting to online-based school, and they miss their friends, extracurricular activities, and life as they knew it before quarantine. That's no doubt a lot to ask and a lot to handle. Flow and Grow Kids' Yoga offers tools and trainings to call upon mindfulness to help navigate such challenges.