Ripples, however small, slowly move out from the source and impact much further than we ever know. Whenever we do a small act of kindness or impart some small wisdom we never know the full impact that will have.
“Even a pebble cast in the middle of a lake creates ripples that eventually reaches the shore.”
I was talking so someone the other day who said that they thought it was ridiculous teaching children at primary/elementary school mindfulness and wellbeing; “what did they have to be stressed about?”.
I should point out that this person did not work in a school or even have young children.
The more I explained why I felt that this was the best possible age to teach mindfulness and wellbeing, the more amazed their face became and the more excited I became. It’s funny how often being forced to defend your point of view makes you realise just how passionate you are about something. Of course I knew that I was passionate about teaching children wellbeing. What I hadn’t fully realised until I had this conversation, was the wider reaching reasons that it is so important to start young. The most obvious comment of course is that younger and younger children are struggling with stress and anxiety. They do need help with their wellbeing. 1 in 6 children of school age has a diagnosed mental health issue. This has risen dramatically over the last twenty years from 1 in 10 in 2004. By giving our young children coping strategies and techniques to use then we can hopefully begin to reverse this trend. We must support those who are already struggling.
We aren’t just equipping them for primary/elementary school
In addition to helping our young people while they are at primary/elementary school, we are teaching them techniques to help them with exams right through their education. Not just that, we are showing them how to manage their emotions. This will support them in ever relationship they will ever have and help them stay calm throughout their lives. When they go for their first job interview they will remember to breathe and calm themselves before they walk in. When they take their driving test they will do a few rounds of 7-11 breathing before they set off to ensure they are focused on the task in hand.
The impact is even further reaching than that though.
You see the one thing we know about children is that they love to share. Whether it is sticky fingers, cuddles, head lice or sweets, they share things with those they love. The knowledge that they pick up at school is no different.
I often have parents and grandparents telling me that their child came home and taught them the breathing technique they learned at school that day. Sometimes even that they sat down and talked them through the meditation they had learned.
Children love to show the adults in their lives that they know something and they learned something new. I know that I have learned many things from my children (particularly about the periodic table, which it seems has doubled in size since I was at school!). The magical thing about children sharing this particular knowledge though is that it can then be implemented by those adults and help them stay calm and happy too.
Picture the scene
Grandma returns from work looking a bit stressed and asks their grandchild to just give them a minute because they are a bit tired, they have had a difficult day.
That grandchild picks up on the tension in their Grandma’s voice (they have become really good at reading emotions because they have learned a lot about emotions at school) so they give Grandma a minute. They then snuggle up next to her on the sofa and gently tell Grandma that they learned some ways to feel happier and more calm at school this week, it’s easy, I can show you if you like?
Of course Grandma loves hearing about what her grandchildren have been learning so they encourage the child to tell her everything. Before she knows it, Grandma is breathing like a bumble bee and is beginning to feel more calm than she has in ages.
Grandma then goes into work the next day feeling calmer and more grounded and notices that her colleague is looking a little tense today. She subtly stands next to her while she makes her coffee and asks her if she is feeling ok. Grandma’s colleage explains that she has a lot going on at the moment and apologises for being a bit stressed. So Grandma tells her colleague that her granddaughter taught her this amazing breathing technique to calm her down last night. Her colleague asks if it is easy and can she teach her…
Before you know it the ripples of that one child are wide reaching and so many others in her wider community have benefitted just from that one technique.
Ripples keep spreading
You see when we teach our children methods of staying calm we send ripples out not just into the wider community, but also ripples into the future. These techniques will be passed from parent to child in the same way nursery rhymes or recipes are.
We aren’t just helping our children to stay calm in their next test or exam. This isn’t just equipping them for the next school year or the next step in their education. The techniques we teach them now will stay with them throughout their lives. They will share these with others they meet who need support.
The strategies will be passed from parent to child and before we know it everyone will have these simple and effective ways of supporting their mental health.
We may never know the true impact of our actions but I do know that when we teach children to care for their mental health the calm ripples we send out into the world are far reaching and life changing.
Start teaching you class these simple but effective life skills today and watch your school community be transformed.