Children, especially those on the autism spectrum, are like emotional sponges; they absorb emotions and feelings of others around them. They may not understand these feelings or why they’re experiencing them. They’ll just feel on edge and agitated. Stress can shut down your capacity to think. You then lose access to higher level thinking, creativity as well as normal cognitive capacities (1).

It’s critical that, before working on self-regulation, people around the child become calm and centered. Learning and practicing Turtle Breathing (more on it in future issues of spark* News), a form of mindfulness, enables you help children you care about remain calm.

To experience what happens when you simply pay attention to your breathing, watch and listen to the video below. You’ll be surprised by how calm and relaxed you’ll feel after taking even a short break.

Mindfulness isn’t quite as simple as it seems. It takes discipline. You need to cultivate and practice it. Our minds focus on what we should have done and what we need to do. In order to capture our moments in awareness and sustain mindfulness, you have to put in some effort.

Mindfulness is on a continuum. We’re all mindful to some degree at times. We all have the capacity to be mindful but we need to practice in order to increase our ability to exist in the present momen. And not just while practicing, but throughout our daily lives.

Once you’ve experienced and practiced mindfulness, do a few minutes of focused breathing immediately before interacting with children. You’ll be surprised by how smoothly things can go. We worked with a group of university students who were implementing spark*. We noticed that their first sessions were chaotic. We then walked them through 10 minutes of mindful breathing before each session. The difference in the children as well as the adults was astounding. The grad students remarked about how well-behaved the children were. They wer ebeginning to see how their state of calm impacted the children.

Remember, the calmer you are when practicing self-regulation or when just interacting with children, the more likely it’ll be positive and successful.

Take a few minutes to calm and center yourself. It’s important for both you and the children you care about.