Mindfulness Tips for Retinoblastoma Families and Supporting Teachers
Monday June 24, 2019
Living with the daily effects of childhood eye cancer can be overwhelming, for all family members. Both the immediate crisis of diagnosis and treatment, and the long-term impacts and risks. Child Life Intern and Student Teacher, Meagan Fuller, highlights some simple mindfulness techniques parents and children can use to ease daily tension.
Stacking smooth stones or pebbles is form of meditation for some people. Each one represents a thought of gratitude, a prayer or a worry that has been laid down in the present moment.
Focusing on the Mind and Body
We practice mindfulness in our everyday routines. We are consistently making decisions about what we need to do and what is happening around us. We regulate our emotions and are mindful to our thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness allows us to focus on our minds and bodies. When people practice mindfulness, they do not let what is happening around them impact their state of mind, or cause them to feel overwhelmed.
Below are some simple mindfulness tips for parents to use at the hospital or at home, and for teachers to consider.
Tips for Parents and Children at the Hospital
Tips for Parents and Children at Home
The Best Time to Do Mindfulness Activities
Parents and children can practice mindfulness at any time during the day. The morning when your child wakes up, and at night before going to bed are especially appropriate and meaningful times.
Morning: This will give the child opportunity to discuss anything that may have caused them distress during the night, and help to make sure they are ready to start the day with a positive mindset.
Evening: The child can discuss any happenings during the day that caused them distress, and settle down to a more restful night.
Children and parents can read books, create a list of coping strategies or do arts and crafts together.
High energy children: Interactive activities are especially helpful. This could be as simple as playing one of their favorite games, or playing outside / going for a walk.
Low energy children: any quiet activity that the child enjoys are good relaxation strategies. Examples are practicing meditation, yoga (the child can even create their own yoga posses), reading or doing arts and crafts like coloring.
How These Activities Benefit Your Child
All of these activities are therapeutic for the mind and body. While your child is participating in these activities, you – their parents – will most likely be able to judge how they are feeling, by engaging with them, listening to them and reading their body language. When you are more aware of your child’s current concerns, you will be more able to support them.
Tips for Teachers at School
Most classroom sizes are quite big. So it can be challenging for the teacher to meet all the individual needs of his/her students without making multiple modifications.
Here are six tips and suggestions to transform the classroom to create a calming and relaxing learning environment for all children. Especially valuable when educating a student experiencing childhood cancer:
1. Relaxing Music
Playing soothing music on low volume will create a calming environment for the students and teacher to complete their work.
2. Guided Meditation
Follow a pre-recorded guided meditation for a few minutes. You can find many videos on YouTube. Meditation is good coping technique for everyone. It enables students to take a moment to think about the present moment instead of their busy school day. I often use ‘New Horizon- Meditation & Sleep Stories. https://www.youtube.com/user/NewHorizonHolistic/featured
3. Body Breaks
I really find this beneficial because it gets the heart pumping and lets students release energy before focusing on a new subject.
4. Dim the Lights
Softer lighting can help improve students’ mood, confidence and focus. This should be done in consultation with vision impaired students, for whom lighting is important, to prevent unnecessary stress and negative impacts on their learning ability.
5. Teach outdoors
Whenever possible, prepare lessons that are conducive for outdoor learning, as being outside is very therapeutic. Fresh air and green space can help recharge our mind and body, and focus attention for quality learning.
6. Comfort Toys
Allow students to keep their favorite stuffed animal or a small distraction toy on their desk, The object is a comfort blanket for students, knowing they have piece of home with them at all times.
3 Mindfulness Activities to Try
These three mindfulness activities can be completed at the hospital, at home or at school. Few resources are needed and each one is cost effective to complete. They are suitable for both younger and older children, with some modification to make the activity easier or more challenging.
The breathing dragon helps children concentrate on their breathing.
The breathing dragon helps children concentrate on their breathing. When the child breathes out deeply through the toilet roll dragon head, the wind tunnel created will cause the “flames” to roar outwards from the dragon’s mouth. Learn more about Dragon Breathing.
List of supplies needed:
- Paper towel or toilet paper roll
- Construction paper to cover the roll, for the eyes and to make the fire dragon breath
- Tissue paper, for the fire dragon breath
- Pom-poms and googly eyes, for more crafty dragons
- Scissors, glue/tape
My Magic Breath
A Final Word
Speaking with your child and/or students about feelings and emotions is key to facilitating conversation, and to knowing what state of mind they are in. This allows you to properly plan an activity, and to prepare yourself for potential conversation that may arise. It is important to ensure the child knows you will be there whenever they need a listening ear.
Please take some time to try out the activities listed above for your mutual well-being.