Nathan Wallis - How to teach children self-calming and mindfulness strategies
The 2022 nib State of the Nation Parenting Survey revealed that over half (54%) of Kiwi parents are concerned about their children’s mental health, while a quarter (26%) say their children struggle with regulating their emotions.
Just as adults find it tricky navigating their emotions, our tamariki need some extra guidance too.
Practising mindfulness means living in the present moment. Neurologically, that means your brain stem or survival brain (that is responsible for your breathing, heartrate and blood pressure) is calm so you feel safe and can engage your frontal cortex, the home of complex cognitive behaviours like intelligence and empathy. That’s difficult enough as it is for parents, but children are still developing their frontal cortex and need a lot more support.
Modelling mindfulness is an important part of teaching our young ones how to self-calm and regulate their emotions. If you think about it like an apprenticeship, the child will learn how to self-calm themselves through simply watching you.
The key to making all of this work is staying calm yourself, especially in those highly emotional moments when your child's reacting. So, don’t forget to take a moment of mindfulness yourself.
Whether it’s through controlled breathing or having open conversations with your children, these strategies can help everyone better manage life’s stressful situations.
For some practical parenting advice, we’ve enlisted the help of our resident parenting expert, Nathan Wallis, to break down the ways we support our tamariki’s mental and emotional wellbeing, while also taking care of ourselves.
Nathan Wallis is a Neuroscience Educator, nib health insurance parenting expert and regular media commentator. He hosts sold-out learning events for parents up and down the country (and abroad), talking to different stages of child development – including the first 1000 days - and how parents can support their children in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.