Holding on for the roller coaster ride

Who has a 9yr old girl and feels they are riding a roller coaster of emotions? Boy oh boy, I do! and it is frustrating not being able to put my finger on it. I can only put it loosely down to hormones and brain development? Between her happy moments, her outbursts of anger and her moments of self-doubt, I admit I am going slightly crazy! Trying breathing techniques, empathy and mirroring and getting her to cool off only work sporadically.

It brought my thoughts back to two articles that I have read recently, one about self-doubt occurring in girls from the age of 6 and one about mindfulness and its benefits when used in schools.

A new study has found that prior to the age of six, girls ‘are just as likely as boys to think their own gender can be brilliant, and just as willing to take on activities requiring exceptional intelligence’ – WOW! That’s awesome, right?

So what changes? After that, girls are much less likely than boys to associate brilliance with their own gender and from tests the study conducted, although girls do get better results than boys at that age, girl’s ideas about ‘who is brilliant are not rooted in their perceptions of who performs well in school’. Interesting correlation between good grades and intelligence…

The study’s authors show that there is probably a myriad of complex open-ended reasons including the common assumption that high-level cognitive ability (brilliance, genius, giftedness, etc.) is present more often in men than in women. This ‘brilliance (equals) males’ stereotype has been invoked to explain the gender gaps in many prestigious occupations’.

In addition, the fact this shift occurs around age 5 may have to do with children entering more formal school scenarios and the possibility teachers might be unconsciously reinforcing stereotypes by how they respond to boys and girls in the classroom. Or perhaps the notion of the absence of women portrayed in history books (due to laws and social mores over the last centuries when women were treated as second class citizens) creates doubt in children’s minds that women are less intelligent.

All in all, I thought it an interesting read and could some of those self-doubting moments she has, be related to the notion she feels somewhat less than? So then what of this and mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the modern mediation technique of quietening the mind and bringing attention to the present. The benefits of mindfulness include improved attention and memory, reduced stress and better health. It can even lower disruptive and bullying behaviour in schools according to Craig Hassed, an associate professor and mindfulness coordinator at Monash University, in an article recently published by ABC News.

He goes on to explain that mindfulness can help alleviate our worries and anxiety about the past and the future including kids ‘who are getting anxious about school are often worrying about a future that hasn’t happened’. Another benefit for children is that if a child cannot engage their attention effectively they will not learn well. Practicing mindfulness can be effective in countering that:

“Children who have a poor ability to engage and sustain attention at four are 50 per cent less likely to graduate from college at 25.”

Hassed says ‘students who have a few minutes of mindfulness practice prior to a class will understand more and retain more information, and are more likely to engage with their study right across the board.’

The recent research into practising mindfulness during school time provides kids with the ability to make better decisions and self-awareness. This tells me that it could help my daughter regulate her emotions, stay away from some of those self-doubting moments (like her intelligence) and come home (on most days) with a smile on her face and the belief that she can be successful in what she does socially, academically and beyond.

Other than that, I may have to seek help from ‘Girl Stuff 8-12, Your real guide to the pre-teen years’ by Kaz Cooke

Author: Emma McEnery

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