If a child has high levels of energy and an inability to remain focused it is often diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
When my own first-born son showed these symptoms in preschool and kindergarten back in the late 1990’s the teachers were quick to recommend I take him to the pediatrician and get him on Ritalin. That didn’t happen. Back then I was told by well-meaning friends that I was neglecting my child by not medicating his disorder but somehow I just knew this was not the answer.
His kindergarten teacher yelled at him daily. The always happy child I walked into kindergarten on the first day of school started crying himself to sleep every night, developed chronic stomach aches and one night shared that his teacher had told him, “You will never be successful.”
After several meetings with the teacher and the school principal who refused to see the damage this approach was having on my son, I pulled him from public kindergarten, homeschoooled him through the remainder of that year and then enrolled him in a Montessori school through second grade where he thrived. When they administered the standardized test called the ITBS he scored in the top 1% nationally. He was reading at a college level in second grade. He returned to the public school system in 3rd grade. He is now 21 years old, has a full time job while working toward his degree in sociology with plans to make documentaries, fascinated by cultural trends.
The truth is, my son did indeed have high levels of energy and it was difficult for him to stay focused. In a society that hails and cultivates convergent thinking, my son was indeed a divergent thinker. Still is.
I was able to help him by teaching him mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is simply the practice of purposefully slowing down and noticing the fine details of present experience without judging, evaluating or changing anything in the moment.
I taught him to ground his energy. Much like an electrical wire that carries an electrical current, if not grounded that electrical energy can be problematic. We practiced feeling feet on the ground, bottom in the chair, noticing the edges of the desk with his finger tips, feeling his breath coming in and out of his nose. And it worked very well.
I taught him to understand that different brains work in different ways and we all have to learn to know our own brain and get our brain and body to work together like good friends. This saved his self esteem that had taken quite a beating by his kindergarten teacher.
When I teach parents, preschool teachers and therapists how to use mindfulness to help children who have ADHD and anxiety, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the therapists and parents I am teaching to develop their own practice of mindfulness first. If parents, therapists and teachers are able to dig in to a regular practice of slowing down, noticing their breath, acknowledging their emotions and pausing before reacting, children can FEEL this energy of calm and benefit from that alone.
Once every month I lead an introductory meditation class in which we practice and discuss mindfulness and life. Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of adults who have not only benefited themselves from the practice of mindfulness but have seen their entire families shift into a calmer, happier experience as a result of their own decision to live a more mindful daily life.
Children can learn to practice mindfulness and we are seeing more and more symptoms of ADHD and anxiety improve radically as a result.
To learn more about mindfulness and meditation go here for an article and video.
All therapists at Wonders Counseling Services, LLC utilize mindfulness techniques along with play therapy and behavioral therapies to help children, parents and families manage symptoms of ADHD, anxiety and life challenges. To speak with a therapist, please contact us!