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Subject:Go back to school mindfullyv

For parents, this really is the final countdown – just a few days to go and the kids will finally be Off Our Hands. But like a bride who focuses on the wedding and forgets it’s the marriage that counts, it’s easy to lose sight of what Back To School is all about. As the stress of sourcing schoolbooks, searching for uniforms, and handing over huge sums of money for various (seemingly unnecessary) extra-curricular activities and trips takes over, any thought of being a supportive, caring parent during the upcoming year can get a little lost…

When we were kids, our parents chucked a sandwich at us each morning and hoped we’d get our homework done of an evening. Nobody read a book on parenting, arranged play dates or worried about whether we’d fit in. But as the world has changed, so has being a responsible parent: nowadays, we know about trans fats and additives, we’ve been to meetings on bullying and ADHD, we’re constantly countering the lure of the Instagram, Facebook, and online games… How on earth, given this overload of sensation and information, does one manage to be a moderately responsible parent to a school-age kid?

The answer, says Constantinos Hadjichristofi, lies in two practices, Mindful Parenting and The Sitting Frog. The first is (obviously) aimed at the adults of the family, and it’s a practice which helps with managing the stressful triggers, those conditions which cause disruption in the family. “It’s not about telling you how to be a good parent,” Constantinos explains gently. “Rather, it teaches you how to respond rather than react when the kids push you into a corner!”

A clinical psychologist specialising in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Solution-Focused Approach, and Mindfulness, Constantinos’ practice involves frequent workshops on Mindful Parenting, an approach to parenting which he deems “more psychologically-based than any other mindfulness programme.

“This is a programme which helps parents learn to respond to situations instead of reacting to them and becoming part of the issue,” Constantinos explains. “Mindfulness as a technique has been proven to benefit our neuropsychology to a huge degree; mindful parenting takes things that step further and allows parents to use mindfulness techniques in their parenting practices.

“You become more aware of what you’re doing and how you’re conducting your life as a parent; you’re able to confront your own preconceptions of your child, and challenge the parenting patterns imbued in you by your own upbringing – addressing, perhaps, the way in which you yourself might be a ‘punitive parent’ or a ‘needy child’. At the same time,” he adds, “you learn to be in a more ‘being mode’ – being with a child rather than doing things, or checking boxes and goals all the time…

“From a neuropsychological point of view, one of the things that makes us learn is by creating that connection with others. Young kids don’t have the cognitive capacity to understand things such as cheating or long-term profit in the same way you do. For them, it’s about forming connections. But if you’re in a constant ‘doing’ mode, that doesn’t always happen. Mindful parenting is about being in the moment and accepting it, and that allows for those connections to form.”

The practice does, of course, take work. As a clinical psychologist, Constantinos runs a number of seminars on the subject (check out the Tree of Life Centre in Larnaca for a taster session on September 4) though he acknowledges the eight-session programme is not a commitment every parent is willing to make.

“There’s no magic pill that you can take and everything will be perfect!” he smiles. “But learning Mindful Parenting can help prepare you and your child for the year ahead: as the academic year progresses, you’ll find yourself less prone to react to situations, and your child will feel that difference – they’ll adjust according to your responses.”

In conjunction with Mindful Parenting, Constantinos also teaches the intriguingly-named The Sitting Frog. A programme which originated with the book Sitting Still Like a Frog by Dutch mindfulness expert Eline Snel, it helps children cultivate skills such as attention, concentration, patience, friendliness, and tolerance, and is being introduced into curricula the world over (and even to some airlines!).

“A positive influence on well-being, behaviour, mood swings, learning processes, and the fear of failure, it’s a scheme of mindfulness-based stress reduction for kids which helps strengthen those mental muscles,” Constantinos reveals. “Everyone, adult or child, has stimuli in their lives – it may be the parent who told you off, the friend who stood you up – and this is about learning not to react. Attention is like a muscle – and kids can be taught to exercise this attention, bringing awareness and focus where and when its needed.”

The Sitting Frog also teaches children that ‘your thoughts and emotions are not you. They’re passing’. “And this can be a godsend for young teenagers who are experiencing difficulties such as bullying or negative automatic thoughts both in and out of school; it helps create the awareness that your thoughts and emotions are not you,” says Constantinos. “If you become aware, you pause. You see what you’re feeling and can examine the thoughts that come into your head. And that,” he concludes, “helps everyone with making conscious, logical decisions.”

No doubt a challenge, whatever one’s age. Especially when you’re about to hit a whole year of fights over homework versus screen time! But with Mindful Parenting and The Sitting Frog, the year ahead might not be the nightmare you expect!

For more information on Mindful Parenting and The Sitting Frog, call Constantinos on 96 592 073 or visit www.softskillsseminars.com.cy. The Tree of Life Centre in Larnaca is running a Taster Course in both on September 4, from 7pm to 9pm. To reserve your place, call 95 711 801


7 TIPS FOR MINDFUL PARENTING

Has your kid spilled the milk, are they whining about screen time, have they forgotten to do their homework yet again? Constantinos gives us 7 tips for handling the situation in a mindful manner:

  • Don’t judge the way you handle the situation or those involved
  • Be patient: stay with what’s happening in front of you and just breathe
  • Cultivate a ‘Beginner’s mind’: see every experience as new
  • Trust in the experience and yourself
  • Don’t strive: be, don’t do
  • Accept the way things are. And then decide if you want to change them
  • Let go of what is out of your control or you don’’t have use for