How to calm child's nervous system, reduce stress and strengthen the respiratory and immune systems?
It is becoming increasingly clear that even young children, 5-12 years old, don’t have very often the capacity to endure society’s demands and stress-provoking experiences. Today’s society is overstimulated, competitive and fast-paced. If we don’t give our children today the necessary tools to navigate their nervous system and understand their emotions, tomorrow we will face the consequences. Stress, worries and anxiety-driven behaviors can be overcome with a physical activity, proper nutrition and very important: healthy mind.
In today’s schools we teach children to run fast, to jump far, to be the best in all school activities, but nobody tells them how to look for resources to recover within their own bodies and minds. Our children don’t know how to deal with emotions, because nobody taught them how to realize what they feel and transform the negative emotions into positive ones.
By introducing your children to Qigong, you would give them a start in a great practice that will grow and evolve with their own development. You will make them aware of their own feelings, teach them how to develop resiliency and stay true to oneself.
A good start might be asking teachers to introduce in the classroom mindful deep breathing which will bring kids’ attention to their breath instead of thoughts or fears that can provoke anxiety. Furthermore, recharging the body with fresh oxygen optimizes physical and mental health. Conscious breathing might be the first step to awareness to effective self-care. Once, understood, it can be implemented anytime and anywhere, without drawing attention to themselves, whether they are starting to feel anxious in school or with friends.
The second step can be mindful movement. The 5 Elements White Tiger Qigong sequence can be introduced in a fun way to children to instantly neutralize the “fight or flight” response and bring child’s nervous system into parasympathetic state, triggering a calm and settled behavior.
General Benefits of White Tiger Qigong Practice for Children
White Tiger Qigong has the power to connect body, breath and spirit and bring one physical relief, emotional balance and mental clarity. And even though this may take a lifetime to perfect, giving a child a skill set that allows her to thrive in many situations is worth it. The 5 Elements sequence will help children to understand their emotions, connect to them through dedicated moves and thus make the process of transformation from negative into positive emotions something tangible.
Qigong requires no special equipment, only imagination. And children have a lot of it. It is proven that mimicking represents one of the best tools for teaching children. The 5 Elements forms represent the moves of animals which children can easily imitate. Adding the breath can help to decrease stress, reduce anxiety and remain calm. Taking several slow and intentional breaths is the fastest way to activate the body’s relaxation response. Balloon breath and counting breaths would be the easiest Qigong breath techniques to introduce to children.
Benefits of White Tiger Qigong for Children at a Glance:
calms the nervous system;
strengthens the respiratory and immune systems;
supports mind-body connection;
brings fresh oxygen to the brain;
encourages mindfulness and accepting the present moment;
promotes healthy sleep patterns.
Benefits of Qigong for Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a medical condition, which affects attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. All kids have sometimes difficulties to concentrate but for children with ADHD paying attention, listening and following directions, sitting still or waiting their turn can be a real struggle. There are some small researches available that have already proven that Qigong might be a promising treatment of symptoms for children with behavioral disorders.
Although more research is needed, there are many proven facts about the benefits of practicing Qigong on brain development that can deduct the positive impact on children with ADHD. The proven treatment plan includes so far medication, exercise, nutrition, cognitive brain therapy and mindfulness and meditation. Besides the medication, almost every mentioned element can be connected to Qigong and amplified by practicing it.
Since White Tiger Qigong sequences represent moving meditations is much easier for those with ADHD and a restless body to follow. The mimicking, visualizations and the 6 Healing Sounds keep bright, creative minds engaged. In the same time the practice encourages rooting which stimulates the relaxation of an overactive brain. The intentional breathing would contribute to better concentration. Motor control and balance might improve as well.
Furthermore, the 5 Elements moves and stances would help children with ADHD to get closer to their emotions, identify them and with some practice being even able to transform them. This is of critical importance, since children with this condition often struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school.
ADHD can become less severe with age. However, some people never completely outgrow the symptoms. The treatment that includes medications and behavioral interventions doesn’t really cure it neither. But what really counts here is to be introduced in a very early age to strategies that can make you successful later in life. Qigong can easily become a daily routine and makes a life-changing difference later in life for an adult who struggled with ADHD as a child.
Suggestions for Qigong Teaching Approach to Children
The most important requirements when teaching White Tiger Qigong to children, aged 5-12 are to be very patient and make a playful class full of fun. The children should feel that you respect them. And while your young students may stand, you may choose to kneel or sit in order to enhance eye contact and connection. While working with children, it is crucial to provide warnings and time limits. You can set the rules in the beginning of the class and participants should be reminded to follow them.
You could start the class about asking some questions regarding the feelings of every child right now. If some of them feel upset or angry, it would be good to encourage them to start breathing slowly. While introducing breathing techniques, it would be better to have the children lie down on their back and ask them to put something as a light book on their belly. Seeing and feeling the moves of the object, would make them easier understand the mechanics of deep breathing. Counting breaths is another good practice to control the breath and make the exhalations longer than the inhalations.
While when teaching adults, there are some established guidelines, working with children require creative approach and very often what we have learned should be adapted. In this context, grasping the concept of inner awareness might be challenging for children. Therefore, introducing some calm music might contribute to a better concentration.
Children are energetic and you cannot require immediately from them to stick with one activity for long. Be ready to have them jumping around while adults would train calmly and silently. Mimicking is a great way of life for children. Simply, asking them to do what you do might work wonders. Using their limitless imagination would make the class funny. Show them a picture of the animal form that you would like to introduce. Ask them what they know about this animal and encourage them to look as much as possible like this animal while performing the form.
But remember, repetitions and consistency create habits. And if you are patient enough, the practice of your young students will drastically change and improve with time.
The contact with nature is almost imperative. However, if the meteorological conditions don’t allow an outdoor practice, it is strongly encouraged to practice in a place with green plants.
While introducing Qigong to my own children, I realized that sometimes they take something from nature and would show how it will move in Qigong. I have never told them that this is wrong, but simply slightly modified the moves and tried to encourage them to find a form from the ones that we have already learned that looks similar.
Feeling the Qi is a long process. But every long process has a beginning. Rubbing the hands, placing them on the eyes, massaging the head and neck might bring an instant soothing sensation and should be introduced as well.
Embracing Qigong and practicing White Tiger Qigong daily has been a life-changing event for me. My desire is to make it accessible to young children and give them a set of skills that would empower them to realize their self-healing potential and tap into it later in life. Qigong has a poetry in it, creativity, wisdom, intelligence. It heals your body, but also heals your soul. It makes you strong, confident. It helps you realize who you are, but also connects you to the world around you.