Creating Calm Children: The Importance of Developing Internal Guidance Systems
Dec 28, 2018 11:50AM
By Lisa Danahy
I was at a loss as to where to turn to try and help my son. He had always struggled with self-regulation. As a toddler, he would tantrum for up to six hours at a time. We could not plan activities, go on vacation or visit friends since we never knew what would set him off and how long it would take him to calm down. In preschool, he was asked to leave one school because of his tantrums and he was having trouble making friends in his new school. Our pediatrician, occupational therapist and county psychologist all suggested he just needed to take a breath and calm down, but he didn’t know how.
My son’s first private yoga session produced immediate results. Tantrums went from hours to minutes as my son utilized the tools he learned and was able to calm and express himself, something he was unable to do in the past. Our son now happily goes to restaurants, grocery stores and our friends’ houses. He has had an increase in play date invitations as his behavior and demeanor as a whole have calmed down. In his preschool, his teachers have noticed a difference in his ability to sit for circle time, share with others and be patient while waiting for his turn. What you have given me is a happy little boy who still gets upset but knows how to self-regulate and calm down. It is a joy to watch my son take a physical step back in an upsetting situation, take deep breaths and then calmly re-engage. Thank you for everything you have taught him." ~Grateful Parent
Every day, thousands of children struggle with self-regulation, self-soothing and self-confidence. All it takes is one person with the right training and the willingness to believe in a child’s capacity for happiness and goodness to make all the difference. Empowering children to feel and act consciously, caringly and constructively is our job as the adults in their world. We must model for our children tools of wellness.
For many years, as the director of a busy preschool, I practiced yoga to help me stay healthy, balanced and calm. Practicing yoga didn’t eliminate the challenges in my daily life, but as they arose, I used my yoga skills to regulate my breathing, relax my tense muscles and rebalance my energy. At times, I was also able to use yoga to raise my energy levels and build resilience. My yoga met me wherever I was.
I began sharing these tools with my students—usually when they had just been marched into my office by an angry teacher. Instead of engaging words, I would invite my little visitor to curl their fists tightly, close their eyes and take a few breaths while imagining being turtles tucked into their shells. Tucking into their shells, even if just for a few breaths, seemed to help press the "reset" button, connect the mind and body and slow everything down, giving them time to check in with themselves. Reconnecting children with their own internal guidance system allows them to seek solutions from the inside, develop and rely on their intuition, and gain greater control of their responses to what is happening around them.
I was compelled through this work to complete my children’s yoga certification, learning a children’s yoga method that combined kundalini yoga with Montessori education. I came to understand the physiology behind the mind-body connection and how yoga fuels self-regulation, self-soothing and self-confidence.
Sharing these tools with children and watching them reconnect with their natural state of happiness and goodness was a powerful learning experience for me. Not only did I come to realize that we adults are the platforms from which our children will launch, but with the tools of yoga and mindfulness, I was able to reconnect with and love the child within me and help the children in my world become more confident, aware, loving and mindful.
Lisa Danahy, E-RYT 200, RCYT, YACEP, Radiant Child Yoga facilitator and mentor, conducts children’s yoga trainings around the country, with upcoming training to be held at A Yoga Village, in Clearwater. Danahy has more than 30 years’ experience as a former school administrator, educator, certified trainer and master yoga instructor. Her work as an educator and trainer is supported by a BA in psychology as well as specialized training in Kripalu Yoga in schools, Ashaya Therapeutic Yoga, Dynamic Gentle Yoga, Pranakriya Prenatal Yoga and Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra. As a published author on yoga and mindfulness for NAEYC, an approved trainer for DC OSSE, a Yoga Alliance certified education provider and member of the International Board of Certified Trainers, she is committed to building strong, healthy communities through yoga and mindfulness education. To learn more, visit inaWellness.com.
A Yoga Village is located at 2760 Daniel St., Clearwater. For more information, call 727-712-1475, email [email protected] or visit AYogaVillage.com/events.