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Lions Roar : May 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2012 77 reflections on topics such as gratitude and caring. Then, the focus turns to mindful- ness skills: becoming more aware of your emotions and your child’s emotions, learning how to listen deeply to your child, even when they are telling you things you’re not so happy about, trying to be low in reactivity and not so automatic in your reaction, learning to be more pres- ent in the moment. From there, the class moves into compassion skills such as remembering how difficult it was to be a teenager, to have compassion for their own parents and the struggles that they now see their parents had with them. The center recently received a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to investigate the effectiveness of this program by studying 600 families over a four-year period. The scope of the work that Greenberg and his colleagues have been doing cov- ers all age groups and all facets of the developmental environment of children in ways that break new ground in how mindfulness might be defined. While chil- dren who are three or four cannot practice mindfulness per se, they still have inherent mindfulness, which they can discover and benefit from. Greenberg works with a cur- riculum in Head Start programs that has been shown to improve children’s readi- ness to become students in a classroom. One of the practices they use is the tur- tle. “We tell a story about a little turtle who has lots of problems,” he says. “The turtle sometimes gets very sad or very mad, but then the turtle goes into her shell, where it’s very quiet and she can take some deep breaths and calm down and think, ‘What’s going on with me? How am I feeling?’ Then, we teach them to do turtle, which is just crossing their hands across their chest and taking a deep breath. When children are upset, teachers and parents can prompt them to use turtle as a way of calming down and using their thinking skills.” ♦ Mindfulness helps us develop the ethical character we need to live in today’s world.