Children’s mental health & modeling purity of intention

Children’s mental health and modeling purity of intention

Supporting children’s mental health is the buzz-phrase of 2017, it seems to me. Everywhere I go, I am noticing opportunities, workshops, articles, etc, about how to support children’s mental health. So if we’re only noticing that children need mental health support now, what the heck were we doing before, in the classroom, as parents? What is this “mental health” concern about? Are we sticking new limiting labels on our kids, putting them in a new box?

Sometimes I will kick my kids outside, feeling just like Calvin’s mom does in Calvin & Hobbes: you know, where she literally tosses him out the front door, down the steps, head first. And even though I’m not talking about getting fresh air, getting exercise, grounding with the earth, getting sunlight–all those things that I know being outside gives them–their first rebuttal of protest to me is always, “But mom, I got enough exercise already at school today during recess.” Who said anything about exercise? Well, I must have, but wasn’t mindful of it, right?

Children's Mental Health: The components of social-emotional learning
Children’s Mental Health: The components of social-emotional learning

Where did they get this label, that moving their body through space and playing outside is something adults are forcing on them? They have lost that purity of intention for outside play: it’s fun and valuable because it just is.

Why isn’t this something that’s fun and desirable for them naturally anymore? You couldn’t drag me inside when I was a kid. I hated being inside, unless it was to practice music. Even in the coldest of Calgary winters in the 1980s, in my mom’s thin, hand-knit pink wool mittens with giant air gaps, I would build ice forts and play in the snow, only coming in long enough to thaw my frozen hands before heading back out. I want this for my kids too, but they think outside play is something I am pushing on them!

When I’m in a classroom, some children will have similar responses to my work and the mindfulness curriculum. Supporting their mental health through mindfulness is now another thing adults are forcing on to them so they can be more docile or better students:

Rosanna: “Can anyone remember what mindfulness is?”
Students: “It’s when we make ourselves be relaxed so we can pass a test. My psychologist says I need this to fix my ADHD and my anxiety.”

Generally, with young people, I find there is an initial inability to connect to this practice from a place of genuine intention. Why? Well, basically because young people are young, of course, and this type of integrated thinking is something still under development! But also, because they are so used to following the expectations of others, such as parents, teachers, and me, so that asking the questions related to purity of personal intention is still foreign.

For me, supporting children’s mental health through mindfulness practice is about modeling and teaching children how to begin looking within to find that core, pure intention:

“What matters to ME?”

“How can I bring the highest and best of myself to bear on any situation around me?”

How many of us adults still need practice being mindful of the basic intention we bring to any action? Well, for sure, I know I do! Aligning our pure intention with our actions, so that we can make decisions and take actions that align with our highest goals and values as a human being, is a life-long practice requiring, like every other discipline, repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

For more information about bringing mindfulness practice to your organization or classroom, please contact Rosanna D by writing rosanna @ CalgaryMindfulness.ca.  Also, for more information about how we parents can align with a purity of intention, here is a link to a presentation I gave the GATE Parents’ Association this year about Mindful Parenting: http://www.gatecalgary.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Mindful-Parenting-GATE_09272016.pdf