How do you help a child that has been traumatized (abused and neglected)? What sort of therapeutic techniques work with these children? Will mindfulness practices help children alleviate the devestating effects on their development? Cathy Mlchiodi, from TLC Institute has a novel answer: 

“When it comes to children, some readers may ask, “Well, how do we successfully adapt what is known about meditation, mindfulness and relaxation to young people?” One popular technique I have used with children for many years is called “Lion’s Breath” and uses an imaginative metaphor (the lion’s roar) to help young people learn the same relaxation skills that teens and adults may learn through traditional methods and yoga breathing:

“I am going to teach you about a way to let go of worries or thoughts that might be bothering you. It’s called the Lion’s Breath and I want you to imagine you are a lion. Remember, a lion has a really, really big roar—can you roar? Now I want you to sit up with your legs crossed; if you feel more comfortable sitting up against a wall with your legs crossed, go ahead and do that (some children feel safer with their backs against a wall). Now, get ready to make your roar! Let’s try one all together as a group (we all roar in unison).

Before we roar again, let’s all think of a worry that we would like to let go off.  For a minute I want you to watch me and see how I roar. First, I am going to take in a really, really deep breath through my nose and then let my roar out through my mouth, sticking my tongue out at the same time and stretching out my arms out as far as I can in front of me. Let’s all try it together, okay?” (Leader and children perform the breathing and roaring together, sticking out their tongues and stretching out arms) (Malchiodi, 2000, p. 14).”

As a therapist that works with children that have been traumatized, I am always looking for unique ways to engage them and encourage healing. Because children don’t respond to traditional talk therapy in the way that adults do, nontraditional techniques such as art, yoga, and animal assisted therapy are invaluable tools in my “therapist toolbox.”

The “lion’s roar” suggested by therapist Cathy Malchiodi is an interesting way to teach children elementary meditation techniques through the use of breathing exercises. Contemporary attachment-based researchers, like Daniel Siegel and Bruce Perry, suggest that meditation and mindfulness can improve a child’s mental functioning and overcome trauma impacted brains.

What have you used with your child to manage the stress of trauma and teach mindfulness?

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