How I'm Managing Toddler Meltdowns With Mindfulness
The Terrible Twos with Little Magician have definitely had their moments of terribleness. She's impatient sometimes, but headstrong and independent all the time - so tantrums and meltdowns have become an expected part of life with a toddler.
I've been on my own anxiety and stress management journey for a couple of years now, actively working on making meditation and mindfulness regular practice. Ever since Little Magician could listen and take direction, I've been working on the same with her. Mindfulness for her looks like stopping everything, sitting still, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly - we sit together and I guide her through the process whenever she's frustrated, too wound up, or on the verge of a meltdown - and it really works for her.
It looks like we might be on to something. In this Upworthy article, Baltimore's Robert W. Coleman Elementary School is featured as a case study in what happens when you replace detention with meditation and mindfulness - and the results are positive.
Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal's office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead. The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it's filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.
In addition to the meditation room, the school also offers mindfulness techniques and yoga in after-school programs for kids from pre-K through grade 5.
The school has reported zero suspensions in the current school year and last school year, and other schools have started to implement mindfulness strategies, with similarly positive outcomes.
For me, this is a sign to continue along the journey of teaching meditation and mindfulness to Little Magician. Benefits include stress reduction, better focus, improved memory, and higher emotional intelligence, so why wouldn't I want to instill that in my child? And hopefully, she'll be able to absorb this as a natural practice since we're starting so early. Mindfulness and meditation can be difficult for me because it's hard to turn my brain off - but hopefully I can start to normalize the practice for her now, before she has more stressors and responsibilities battling for room in her mental space.
The fact that schools are now starting to look at mindfulness as a positive approach and intervention for children is a good sign. Compared to the U.S. and the UK, Canada hardly collects or makes race-based statistics public, but a 2006-7 report from the Toronto District School Board showed that Black students were 3 times more likely to be suspended than White students. Black students made up 12% of the high school population, but accounted for more than 31% of all suspensions (comparatively, White students made up about 33% of the high school population, but accounted for 29% of suspensions). In the 2011-12 TDSB report, it showed that suspension rates have dropped across the board, but Black students are still disproportionately suspended - in grades 9-12, 8.2% of suspended students were Black compared to 2.9% being White.
Curbing these skewed suspension rates requires a multi-pronged approach, but as Robert W. Coleman has shown, meditation and mindfulness may be among those possibilities. Teaching students to be more attuned to their emotions and more mindful of their behaviours helps to re-centre their locus of control - and giving our children tools in their arsenal is part of what parenting and educating is all about. Best believe I'll be tucking this info away in case I need to introduce this concept at Little Magician's future school.
Wondering how to introduce your little one to mindfulness? Check out the Breathe, Think, Do Sesame Street app on iTunes and Google Play, aimed at teaching children problem solving skills, resilience, stress management, and emotional intelligence.
So while I work on my own practice of mindfulness, I'll keep involving Little Magician in the journey. Tantrum management now, possibly improved school outcomes later, plus a host of other benefits? Mindfulness is more than worth it to me.