I have been teaching relaxation and meditation to young people in response to an ever-increasing problem of anxiety and stress among our youngsters. In the UK, this now affects many university and senior school children, however children as young as 5 are also showing signs of anxiety. In some school health questionnaires, the biggest fear which many teenagers report is that they will develop mental health problems.
One in Four (26%) young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts
ChildLine (UK) held 34,517 counselling sessions in 2013/14 with children who talked about suicide – a 116% increase since 2010/11
Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years, particularly since the mid 1980’s
The number of children and young people who have presented to Accident &Emergency with a psychiatric condition have more than doubled since 2009. (8,358 in 10/11; 17,278 in 13/14)
55% of children who have been bullied later developed depression as adults
There are many possible factors involved in these statistics such as increases in exams and exam stress; substance abuse; peer pressure; bullying; and changes in family life and, perhaps more recently, an increased feeling of instability as countries and continents tumble into more uncertainty. An interesting study by the UK Nuffield Foundation outlines the dramatic increase in mental health problems in adolescents in the past 30 years and explains the key social trends which can affect young people’s wellbeing.
However, it seems unlikely that all the children and young people with symptoms of anxiety are exposed of these problems (which it could be argued are no worse than what children experienced in the world wars). Pinpointing the exact cause of anxiety in younger children can be difficult and some people are questioning whether, in a substantial number of cases, it relates to the fact that many of them, especially in the developed world, are no longer allowed to take even small risks. In the UK, this is the case as we live in time where children are often under constant supervision and where a culture of risk assessment exists, even for the most mundane outing or event. School activities have been curbed and playgrounds lie unused if no adult supervision is available. In addition, many children are being ‘overparented’ by so-called ‘helicopter parents’. This might be a response to fears for their child’s safety fuelled by 24 hour media horror stories, despite statistics which show that there is no greater danger nowadays than in the past.
Whilst a certain amount of child supervision is necessary and prudent, perhaps we have reached a stage where too much ‘wrapping in cotton wool’ is having a seriously bad effect on many children?
Kids need to learn how to set their own boundaries and to develop a healthy sense of self-preservation but how can they do so if they’re never allowed to stretch their wings, even a little? Maybe such a constant drip feed of suggestions that their environment/the world is not a safe place is causing a subconscious increase in anxiety? This is certainly the view of some psychologists as Zoe Reyes explains in a ‘World of Psychology’ article .
I can’t help contrasting the UK approach with places like Finland where orienteering is taught through clubs and schools to children as young as eight. Children are given training, a map, and a compass and left to find their way through forests and countryside, without adult supervision. This might be a bit mind-blowing for many parents but it is a truly confidence-building sport which has produced people like nine-times world champion Minna Kauppi. She started the sport when she was only eight years old and became world champion by the age of 24. Now aged 34, she faces the new challenge of being a parent, having given birth to her first child last month.
So, how can overprotective parents change their approach? The first step is to recognise that they are being overprotective and then, perhaps, to join their children in more adventurous play such as can be found in places such as ‘The Land’ . This is an experimental playground in North Wales which lets children (and adults) experience he boundaries of ‘truly free’ play the idea of a ‘junk playground’ was pioneered in Denmark in 1943 by landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen after he witnessed children playing on bombsites. For those who are ready and willing to let their children off the leash completely and to go it alone, a similar scheme has also been started in New York City. Called ‘play:groundNYC’, no parents are allowed and children are encouraged to get dirty, to use tools and to let their imaginations run wild. It reminds me of my own childhood in the 60s and 70s where we could run wild and get up to all sorts of mischief!
And what about those children who have already developed anxiety and stress? This is where relaxation and meditation/contemplation fit in. These tools can be a great approach for children and there are numerous studies which support the use of relaxation, meditation and visualisation. Many of these studies can be accessed online but one woman, Dr Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is heading this field. She has found that meditation not only reduces stress but it changes the brain in a positive way. The findings are fascinating and they show that the brain does not have to decline inevitably as we grow older!
In addition to these positive effects, relaxation and meditation can also help children and adults with their focus, confidence and self-esteem as they learn skills which draw on their inner resources. This has certainly been the case with the children (and adults!) who are using the system I teach which is called Heartfulness. It’s free and open to all, and you are welcome to check it out at http://en.heartfulness.org.
Have you or your kids ever tried meditation?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Judith Nelson.
I was in Taipei with family for Chinese New Year when President Donald Trump first announced the travel ban on citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
For days, concerned relatives and friends asked if the ban would affect us.
In one way, it doesn’t affect us—we are naturalized U.S. citizens.
But in many ways, it does affect us.
My 3-year-old son’s preschool teacher is a Muslim from Iran. We love her and truly worried that we would lose a great teacher over that ban. For days my husband and I tried to come up with a good explanation for our child, but we couldn’t.
At dinner table when the child was not listening, my mother-in-law said, “You don’t have to tell him anything. He’s gone through several teachers before, he’ll be fine. He probably won’t even notice that she is gone.”
My father-in-law said, “If he does notice and ask questions, simply tell him that the teacher left. He will forget about it soon anyway.”
My in-laws were wrong. Kids are not as ignorant and forgetting as we thought.
We came back to the States on the same day protesters against President Trump’s travel ban gathered at Los Angeles International Airport. When we were in the customs line, an immigrant officer asked the woman in front of us, “Does what happening in America these days worry you?”
“Yes, it really worries me,” the woman answered. She wore a Hijab.
My son overheard them and asked me, “Mama, what’s she worrying about?”
We stepped out of Tom Bradley International Terminal, and he saw the protestors.
“Mama, what are these people doing?”
We had to start the difficult conversation early. “Look, baby. Our new President just made a new rule that stops people from some Muslim countries from coming to our country. But there are people who think the rule is wrong, so they are here to tell everybody that what they think. And the woman with Hijab at the custom is probably a Muslim, so the rule worries her.”
I tried to use small words. I wasn’t sure if he understood. He thought about it, and then asked, “Do we know any Muslim?”
“Well, Ms. Parvaneh is from a Muslim country.”
He stared at me. And then all in a sudden, he started to cry. Not crying, but wailing.
While we were driving home, my son fell asleep in the car. He woke up two hours later, and never asked any questions about the ban again.
Trump has said that citizens of the seven countries pose a high risk of terrorism. But the 9th Circuit made it clear that the Trump administration “pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” This ban is simply not reasonable. As an American, I refuse to lose a critical part of my country – or lose a great teacher – over an unreasonable ban.
What are your thoughts on the travel ban? Would you, or anyone you know, be directly affected?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng of the United States. Photo credit: Florencia Rojas.
Ever since I was a little girl – even just a few months ago – I always thought that my mom was immortal. But she died on December 11, and left us devastated. Her name was Lalao, and she was just 61. I am a mom, and moms are supposed to be strong, right? But how can I pretend to be strong when I lost my confidante, my best friend, and the one who made me, in such tragic circumstances?
After freeing herself from domestic violence, Mom took care of my brother and me, all by herself. She faced hardship, poverty, injuries, and sacrificed her dreams for giving us a good education and a decent life. And through laughter and tears, she stood tall. I remember she had to work during nighttime to make ends meet, but still found some hours to pamper us before or after school hours. She was very severe with us, and we sometimes felt oppressed because she always asked us to do our best, especially regarding our studies. She, along with my grandma, used to sew suitable clothes for us, so that we don’t feel miserable. And we were happy, for a certain time.
A few months after my father died, Mom reconnected with a man she dated in high school. That guy hated us and wanted to have his own child with my mom. In 1995, she had an ectopic pregnancy which required surgery and left her unable to bear children. Her man started to cheat on her starting from the day he knew she won’t be able to have children anymore. Violence was back in our life, but it was different from our father’s style. This violence was more psychological, and at some point our family exploded because he asked Mom to choose between him and us. Mom wanted to stick with him until the day she found out that he had a baby with another woman. That was in 2001.Mom went into a deep depression. I know these were really hard times for her, and I feel guilty because I tried to escape from all this suffering in the best ways I could: studies, activism and – soon, marriage. I was just 22 while I left my mom and brother for my new life with my husband. I didn’t want to be a burden for my mom anymore. I found a job and paid for my own studies.
Eventually, my mom found a new job, and her life tremendously improved. She was happy again but was anxious about my brother who struggled with his studies. I will always remember her smile and tears of joy while my son Tony was born. I think she saw him as a kind of achievement. For the past 3 years, she was totally involved in community projects, helping the poorest. She was full of energy. Today, when my youngest son, Hugo, asks why Mamie “left”, I still really can’t find suitable words to explain the situation.
This is the most awful situation I’ve ever experienced in my life. At 2pm on December 5, Mom called me, saying that she had severe abdominal pain. We had met the previous day and she was perfectly normal. My husband jumped in his car to take her to the hospital. This was not the first time – my mom was often sick with serious stomach pains, but we didn’t knew what was causing it. Her stomach sometimes inflated like a balloon, and it was so painful that she couldn’t even wear a shirt over her abdomen. Just as quickly, her symptoms would disappear.
So, the morning my husband rushed her to the hospital, we thought it would be the same. She was convinced that she would be back home a few hours later. I had to work, but I tried to find time to stay with her at the clinic. At first, the doctors said she had salmonella, and then typhoid, but the treatment they gave didn’t make her feel better.
I was worried, but still felt confident. I was also busy because my kids had their mid-term examinations, and the premiere of my movie on civil resistance was that same week. I briefly saw Mom on the day of the premier, and she said, “Good luck tonight!” She watched the movie on my laptop and she liked it. I really missed her during the premiere. The day after, I was running a training while she texted me. The doctors told her she urgently needed surgery. Finally, they had diagnosed her, not with typhoid, but a bowel obstruction.
She was transferred to a different hospital, more equipped for this kind of surgery. We slept only for a few hours that night. On my birthday, she went for surgery early in the morning. She finally came out of surgery at 2 p.m. The doctors explained that there had been complications during the surgery. It appears that someone had accidentally left a pad or a towel in her womb during her surgery after the ectopic pregnancy in 1995. The foreign object had been lodged in her bowels, which was the source of the obstruction. They had to cut 40cm of her intestines and create a bypass. Ther surgery was long and complicated, but she was alive. I thanked God, thinking that her misery was finally over.
We were only allowed to visit her twice a day: at noon and at 6pm, because she was still in the emergency unit. I talked to her, and she was fully conscious. She wanted some water but it was forbidden. I wrapped her chaplet around her skinny arm and she asked for prayers. Friday night went well. I didn’t want any party for my birthday, given the situation, and my kids didn’t really understand that (they were looking forward that party for a long time). On Saturday, the head of the emergency unit asked called me to her office. I was scared. She said the situation was critical because my mom had had a stroke that morning. They managed to save her, but they were concerned about future stroke. I begged her to do her best.
I saw Mom again on Saturday evening. She looked very tired and she was thirsty. She said she couldn’t feel her legs anymore and the doctors explained that it was because of her disc herniation (a problem she had after a car accident in 2010, another sad story). I don’t exactly remember what I said to her that evening, when I left. I just remember I urged her to hold on. While I heard a car arriving in our yard around 2 a.m., and saw my husband standing on the door, I didn’t want to think to the unthinkable. But the unthinkable had occurred.
My mother died firstly as a consequence of a bad operation she had 21 years ago. She lived with a pad in her abdomen, and that was probably the root cause of all her problems. Then, she died because of a false diagnosis. If the bowels obstruction was detected the very first day – through a basic exam – things would have gone differently. She died of a “massive pulmonary embolism” on Sunday, at 01:25 a.m., because she was exhausted by the pain she felt from the previous Monday till that very minute. I think she gave up. Too much pain and too much suffering in a single life! Too much violence, too many tears, too much sadness! She said, “Enough is enough,” and she walked away. I had to call my brother, who lives in Morocco, to tell him the bad news. That broke my heart once again. He arrived a few days after, a torn soul.
So, what are we up to, now? We moved to Mom’s house with our kids because we wanted to keep her memory alive. It’s a rental but we hope that someday we’ll be able to buy it. My brother is back to Morocco, and he tries to grieve in a constructive way. As an activist, I feel I won’t find peace if I don’t do anything about this false diagnosis, and about healthcare in general, in Madagascar. Do you know that here, you can still die from fever, or from cholera, or from whatever disease, because average people can’t afford drugs? As 90 percent of people live with less than $1.25 a day, where can they find money for healthcare? And the government does nothing! Rich people go to Mauritius or South Africa to get treatment. Average people like us go to public hospitals or private clinics where you can die because there’s no oxygen, or because of a power shortage. Poor people just die in the streets, from starvation, or from treatable conditions. The doctors say, “Don’t blame us, blame the State! We are poor victims too!” Perhaps. What can I do in order to change this system? Any idea is more than welcome!
I don’t want Mom’s live to be wasted like dust in the wind. I need to do her justice, but without going through a trial because corruption ruins everything here. Please, moms, help me to find my soul back again. Tell me what I can do for my mom, my immortal hero.
World Moms Network and the Heartfulness Institute have partnered to bring forth a series of online monthly webinar workshops for women called GLOW which stands for ‘Genuine Loving Outstanding Women’. This helps women everywhere to learn and practice Heartfulness meditation from the comfort of their homes or workplace. The aim is to help women integrate meditation into their daily lives to achieve a more peaceful and balanced life, and a better environment. Each webinar will also feature an expert speaker, chosen from women who are outstanding in their fields, and are influencers and change makers.
This webinar comes at a time, celebrating the International Day of Women, whose theme declared by the UN Foundation is #BeBoldForChange.
Each one of us – women and men joining forces can be a leader within our own spheres of influence by taking bold pragmatic action to be agents of change. Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential of heir hearts.
So, please encourage the wonderful women in your communities, work places, families, and among your friends to tune in without fail, and be benefitted.
We have urgent work to do. Are you ready to #BeBoldForChange this IWD 2017 and beyond?
Keynote Speaker: Ms. Vani Kola
Ms. Vani Kola
Ms. Vani Kola is a Managing Director at Kalaari Capital, based in Bangalore, India. Her leadership at Kalaari centers around her commitment to the development of entrepreneurs and her conviction that Indian companies are poised to become global players. Vani brings 22 years of Silicon Valley experience as a founder of successful companies to her role as a mentor and enabler of startup companies in India. She serves on several company boards and speaks widely on entrepreneurship and leadership.
Overview & Takeaway:
Ms. Vani Kola would speak about her journey of “discovering self”. Heartfulness meditation has helped her to confront her fears. One clings to fears because one is not ready to face them. However anyone can learn to free themselves of fear and move to freedom. In this talk, Ms. Kola would explore practical ways to understand fear and its root cause. She would also offer simple ways to confront and conquer fears, thus creating a change for a bold you.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND:
All women across the globe who would love a hot cup of inspiration and who seek guidance to listen to the true calling of their heart! Please share the attached Social Media Promotional images in your circles, encouraging women to join.
Please like and share the Social Media – Facebook Page – Heartfulness for Women for periodic updates and resources for women.
If you would like to speak on the next GLOW webinar, or seek further information about the webinar series, or would like to partner with Heartfulness Institute/World Moms Network, write to GLOW@heartfulness.org
World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.
Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms
Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.
Earlier this week I wrote a gratitude post to share on my personal blog and I was really struck by a tweet someone sent me in response. It said “what an inspirational post, I need to do more good in the world” and it really got me thinking. We all need to do more good in the world. You only have to watch the news to realize there is a lot that needs doing but I think I might be preaching to the converted here as the crux of World Moms Network has always been to pull together mothers from around the world to share their experiences of parenthood and fighting for social good and human rights.
You never know though, there could be a mother reading this who has a real passion for the poor, is gifted at befriending or wants to ensure equality for all people but hasn’t yet had the opportunity or confidence to step out and do something practical. So this post is for you, to challenge you and to encourage you. Becoming a volunteer might not be the easiest thing you have ever done but I am totally sure it will be one of the most worthwhile.
This last week I have worked on a voluntary basis six days out of seven for four different charities. I’ve worked in reception and bookings for a Christian conference centre, sorted food at a warehouse and packed bags of supplies at the local Food Bank, coached a young boy who is on the cusp of exclusion from school and cooked breakfast at the homeless shelter. How many of these things are related to my day job or the work I trained to do? Very few but here I am doing them anyway.
It’s not usual for me to do quite so much voluntary work in one week and I’m certainly not advocating that you start out doing so much, it is just the way it worked out this week and they all fitted around my children being at school or my husband being home with them. That is one of the big benefits of volunteering, it is so flexible. I don’t have to give a full day, it was enough to do two hours at the night shelter this morning, that meant twenty men and women had a hot breakfast before they went back out into the freezing cold today.
A sense of satisfaction “But why?” You might ask. “You have three school-aged children, paid writing work to complete, two blogs to manage, church responsibilities to take care of, friends to see and a house to upkeep Michelle, why do you need more?” The simple answer would be that I don’t, there is lots in my life but I love to be busy and I have a very strong work ethic. It is totally the right thing (for my family) for me to be available for the kids out of school but forgive me, it doesn’t always stretch or fulfill me in the way that paid out-of-the-home work used to so this was the initial reason I got into volunteering.
I’m giving back
Also since becoming a Christian fifteen years ago I have a heightened awareness of just how blessed I am to live in the UK and to have a comfortable life with great family and friends. I truly believe that all people are equal and therefore it goes without saying that I just can’t stand the inequality we see in the world.
I desperately want to change things and be able to feed all those starving across the world but actually I don’t have the skills to do that so I have to make sure I am taking my small footsteps and joining together with other generous and compassionate people to make ripples that can longer term become waves of change.
It challenges me
Not just change elsewhere in the county or world though, there has been change in me too, both in terms of my skills and also my mind-set. I’m ashamed to say that before I started volunteering with the Food Bank a few years back I had no idea just how difficult life is for some people. It is easy to assume that those living off our British benefits system want to be doing so and might even be milking the situation. Over the last couple of years I have learnt that I cannot judge anyone, we all have different journeys and you are only qualified to comment when you have been there.
If you, like me are a mother taking time out of your career right now to be more family orientated then volunteering is a wonderful way to continue with your personal development. Most industries now want to see evidence at interview that you have been keeping up to date and developing your skills. Through my volunteering at the food bank and night shelter I have increased my compassion, ability to talk to anyone and my willingness to do the grotty jobs. Then my work at the conference centre has helped with my patience and working with characters who may not share the same views as me and my volunteering as the coach coaching a vulnerable child has helped with my own parenting in regards to having fun together, really listening and setting boundaries.
I’m sure you can tell I love my voluntary work and there is so much out there that you can do. My heart is for the poor and that is the reason I undertake most of my voluntary roles but you might be passionate about animals, wanting to help those you are bereaved or on fire for protecting the environment. I just urge you today to take ten minutes on your computer and see what local volunteering opportunities there are that might suit you.
Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world.
Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank.
As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."