Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review: Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel

Life with three young boys is rarely calm and quiet. More often than not, their waking hours are filled with hollering, yelling, whoops of joy, cries of "It's not fair!" and lots of ambient noise. Sometimes it seems that their default volume is LOUD and escalates to REALLY LOUD without much effort at all.

On top of that, one of my boys has been diagnosed with ADHD, though I wouldn't be surprised if at least one more ended up with the same diagnosis down the road. All three have had trouble falling asleep at one time or another during their lives, sometimes for an extended period of months, with the resulting sleep deprivation affecting their personality, school work, and exacerbating the aforementioned ADHD symptoms. Anxiety also runs in the family and I've seen it take its toll on my kids already - "Mom, my head is never quiet!" one of them told me - so I'm constantly looking for ways to help them draw strength from within themselves, calm their over-active brains, and deal with the world around them.

After seeing Sitting Still Like a Frog recommended by a friend, I thought it was worth a shot. I've dabbled in meditation off and on for a few years and have appreciated the benefits; maybe, I thought, it'd work for my kids, too.

The book itself is short, and addresses basic mindfulness lessons in simple language that children, or beginners, can easily grasp. Snel quotes scientific studies and her own experience to show that after participating in a pattern of mindfulness exercises at school, "students and teachers...noticed positive changes, such as a calmer atmosphere in the classroom, better concentration, and more openness. The kids became kinder to themselves and others, more confident, and less judgmental." Who couldn't use that?

She emphasizes repeatedly that "mindful attention requires practice. It does not just happen. Like playing sports or a musical instrument, you learn by practicing frequently and thoughtfully." The exercises on the accompanying CD are short, anywhere from three-and-a-half minutes to nine minutes, some specifically designed to help take a brief pause during the day. Others are geared toward calming anxiety and worries, find places in their bodies where they are holding tension and relax them, strengthening empathy, and helping kids get to sleep.

Snel also draws helpful connections for kids to validate their feelings, own their responses, and empower them to take proper action, useful lessons for anyone.
Stopping and looking closely at the situation enables you to respond differently to different circumstances. Your response can then be less driven by frustration or automatic behavior and can thus be milder and more understanding. You can begin to see that it is not the situation that is causing the problems but your reaction to it.
While all feelings are okay, not all behavior is. We don't necessarily choose our feelings, but we can choose how to express them.
My boys have started requesting a track or two of the CD at night. After trying it out just a couple of times, they found it helps them go to sleep faster and sleep better. It's a bit early to be seeing too many other results, but even if that's the only good that comes out of reading this book and introducing my kids to basic meditation, it's been worth it!

Sitting Still Like a Frog Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)
by Eline Snel
ISBN: 9781611800586
Buy it from Amazon here: (paperback, ebook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

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