Anyone who has, or who works with, children knows how hard it is to see a child in turmoil. From broken friendships to bullying or pre-exam stress, we do our utmost to shield their tender hearts with our affection, our words and our guidance. But, to be able to cope effectively with life’s knocks, we need to build up our children from within. By giving them a way to strengthen their inner resilience and self-awareness, children can learn to navigate the many challenges they will experience simply by being part of the world. This is one of the key benefits of Sophrology; a method which lends itself to children’s natural playfulness, and which is as gentle as it is, simple.
What Types of Issues can Sophrology help Children with?
Sophrology offers an effective way for children (as well as adults!) to take an active part in their own wellbeing. Whilst it is healthy for any child to have a way of coping with moments of stress or anxiety, Sophrology has long been used in Europe to help children with a range of issues, from certain physical conditions, and developmental disorders such as ADHD and autism, to shyness, insomnia and anxiety.
Children and adults who experience frequent bouts of anxiety can benefit greatly from Sophrology, as the techniques enable us to focus on our breathing and bring a sense of calm back into our minds and bodies – thus providing an alternative to developing unhealthy coping mechanisms ( – we all have them!). It also provides a similar calming effect for those with asthma as a complementary method to current guideline-based treatments, and helps to improve sleep by practising through the day and developing a sleep routine at night.
Interestingly, Sophrology has been found to be effective for children with ADHD and ADHD-type behaviours and is increasingly used in classes to support those who are struggling to focus or have difficulty with tasks that require patience – but we’ll look at this in a little more detail shortly…
Why is Sophrology so Effective with Children?
Many health and wellbeing methods are developed with adults in mind. They often seek to delve into the ‘problem’, requiring a rational approach borne of life experience. Not so with Sophrology; it focuses instead on building our inner strength and self-awareness, to deal with all issues in a healthy and positive way. Here are some of the key reasons that it is so effective with children:
Sophrology uses the mind and body to help build awareness of our thoughts, feelings and sensations and connect fully with our inner selves. This can be really helpful for children as it allows them to engage in Sophrology techniques with their whole being – from head to toe, and everything in-between!
Children know how to ‘go with the flow’
As adults, we can get obsessed by outcomes and achievements; ‘getting things right’. This can actually make it harder for us to connect with our inner selves without judgement. In contrast, children are much more likely to be open to new experiences without getting hung up on the end result. In this way, they can actually be naturals at Sophrology, and having the freedom to explore their own thoughts, feelings and sensations children can turn the experience into an adventure.
Sophrology uses movement
Importantly, Sophrology encourages natural posture and movement, so for those children who dread the instruction in class to ‘sit still!’, they can engage in the Sophrology techniques, knowing that they can be comfortable and relaxed, moving when they need to; whether that’s to release tension …or scratch an itch! Dynamic relaxation exercises – a key technique used in Sophrology – help to focus the mind on the body, and the body on the mind, enabling children to have greater self-control when they need it most.
The techniques are easy to learn
A method that works well with children needs to be sustainable as well as simple. The exercises used in Sophrology themselves are easy to learn and to fit into everyday life, which in themselves gives children (and adults) a sense of achievement as they find themselves improving over time. Breathing exercises can have an instant effect, bringing a sense of calm, and of being able to master their inner and outer world.
Learning meditation gives them a tool for life
It can be fascinating for children to learn how difficult thoughts and feelings can manifest as aches and pains, and more importantly, how these sensations can melt away with our awareness of them. Through learning to meditate, and by focusing on their breathing, children can create a calm place within which to learn this. Furthermore, by using Sophrology techniques early on in life, children can call upon them naturally when needed, throughout their adult lives, too.
Imagination is a natural ability for children!
The visualisation techniques in Sophrology fit beautifully into the realm of childhood, using their natural sense of adventure and creativity, and using all 5 senses to heighten their creative experience. Once we understand just how powerful our inner world is, we can learn to channel it in a way that helps us to respond to life’s events in a way that helps us, rather than hurt us.
Children with ADHD and ADHD-type Behaviours
Parents and teachers will have first-hand experience of how a child with ADHD can sometimes seem like they are living from meltdown to meltdown! This can be due to the fact that their brains work a little differently from that of the non-ADHD child, as they can find it hard to filter out all the sights and sounds around them. Consequently, this can affect the child’s ability to focus and take in information – leading to frustration and challenging behaviours.
Typically, children with ADHD have some or all following difficulties:
Difficulties with social interaction – not knowing their actions have gone ‘too far’; anger outbursts, sometimes leading to aggressive behaviour
Finding it hard to be quiet or sit still – for example, the constant tapping of a pencil or a running commentary of events in class
Impulsiveness/risk-taking – other children will often ‘dare’ a child with ADHD as they are more likely to oblige, without thinking through the consequences of their actions
Forgetting things or getting mixed up easily – this can be a regular source of frustration as they feel they always ‘get things wrong’
Difficulty sleeping: both getting to sleep – and staying asleep – can be problematic
Difficulties with patience – whether in queues or taking turns in a game, children with ADHD can struggle with delayed gratification
Several initiatives now exist across the UK to help parents of children with ADHD to create an environment that works to reduce challenging behaviours. The learning from these initiatives is simple and straightforward – so much so that one might wonder how something so effective can be that simple! But it is. Principally, they involve some common elements: creating structures and boundaries; providing clear communication; a quiet space and time for relaxation and reflection; consistency; positive praise, and room to grow.
Interestingly, these elements are found in Sophrology, where techniques provide a structure within which to practise calming themselves, giving them a ‘safe space’ to explore their bodily sensations, and offering a way to access positive feelings to help build trust and confidence – in themselves and in others.
However, the resounding benefit of Sophrology for those with ADHD and related behaviours, is that it helps to develop self-awareness. Importantly, by developing a greater sense of self, children can more readily recognise when they are beginning to feel overwhelmed and regain self-control before their thoughts and emotions escalate beyond that ‘point of no return’.
The Proof is in the (Sophrology) Pudding!
Of course, every child is different, and will have their own ‘triggers’ and ways of working through challenging situations. Sophrology is not a ‘magic bullet’ which erases the problems they encounter; what it does do, is give them a set of tools to work with, which can help them to deal with difficulties from a better physical and emotional place. And the best way to find out if the Sophrology method can help – is to teach it to them! Qualified Sophrologist and teacher, Bérangère Carcano, offers some great insights, with instructional videos which can be purchased from her website, for those looking to support children through Sophrology techniques.
… We can’t shield our little ones from everything as they go through life, but we can give them what they need to make their journey an easier one.
Find out more about Sophrology, our courses, workshops and online events on the Sophrology Academy website.