Kids experience all kinds of stress: good stress, like the excitement of trying out for the basketball team, and bad stress, like dealing with bullies. Thankfully, mindfulness techniques can help your child manage his stressors, good and bad alike.
In Mind Over Basketball by Dr. Jane Weierbach and Dr. Elizabeth Phillips-Hershey, Tuck benefits from Coach Watson’s tips for dealing with his parents’ divorce, trying out for the basketball team and dealing with a bully. Your child might also benefit from the mindfulness techniques Tuck learns to apply to stressful situations on and off the court.
Breathing deeply and slowly helps both the mind and the body. With every deep breath, your lungs put oxygen into your blood and take carbon dioxide out. More oxygen to your brain helps you think more clearly. More oxygen to body helps muscles relax. Breathing slowly also slows the heart rate, helping you feel more calm.
To breathe mindfully, put your hands on your chest, take a deep breath in, feeling your chest expand and filling up with air. Concentrate just on your breath, coming in and filling your chest. Let the breath out slowly, feeling how your hands move as the air moves out. This breath calms the body and the mind, allowing you to do your best.
Visualization is a way of practicing something in your mind. Imagining yourself, in detail, doing a challenging task well lets you practice the skill before you do it. This is a common approach for athletes. If you watch the winter olympics, you can see skiers and snowboarders, with their eyes closed before their run, visualizing their performance.
Visualization takes practice. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, focusing on your breath. Picture yourself in a video doing your challenging task well. Imagine the beginning, middle, and end. Pay attention to the details. Ask yourself “What am I doing well? What am I saying to coach myself? What parts of this picture should I change so I could ace it?” Now, edit your video to make improvements and then play it again in your head. Repeat often.
We all talk to ourselves. Sometimes we just walk ourselves through a process, like reading a recipe in our head, but sometimes we tell ourselves we can’t. We’re not good enough. We should have…. This negative self-talk causes stress and makes you feel bad about yourself, which can impact your performance.
Coach yourself with positive self-talk. For example, “I’ve done this in practice many times and my skills are strong. I can do this.” “Everyone feels a little nervous when meeting new people. Once I start talking with someone, I’ll relax. I will ask questions and listen carefully to get to know people.” “This is hard for me now, but I know if I take my time and keep working at it, I’ll get better.” Positive self-talk can allow your child to coach himself to success instead of focusing on what went wrong.
You and your child don’t need to be athletes to use the strategies for success. Indeed, learning to coach yourself and practice these mindfulness techniques are great life skills, useful on and off the court.
Adapted from Mind Over Basketball: Coach Yourself to Handle Stress, by Jane Weierbach, PhD, and Elizabeth Phillips-Hershey, PhD.
Related Books from Magination Press
Breathe is a conversation between a boy and his mother at bedtime. But this conversation can happen at any time, in any place. This introduction to mindfulness presents a collection of illustrated exercises to help little ones become aware of their breath and their body. Includes a Note to Parents & Caregivers that describes the exercises and their effects in more detail.
1-2-3 A Calmer Me: Helping Children Cope When Emotions Get Out of Control
1-2-3 A Calmer Me introduces children to a simple rhyme they can use to slow down their bodies and stop mad feelings from spinning out of control.
Includes a “Note to Parents, Teachers, and Other Grown-Ups” with more information about the steps of the “1-2-3” rhyme, and advice for working through the steps with your child.
Bee Still: An Invitation to Meditation
Bentley is a lovable, calm honeybee. He lives in a hive in a tall oak tree. One day, the queen told the bees to get busy. This sent them scrambling into a tizzy. But not Bentley. He chose to be patient and wait. He decided to look for a place to meditate. Bee Still is a child-friendly introduction to meditation. Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with more ideas for introducing meditation into your child’s life.