How to Raise a Peaceful Goldfish
Ever notice how peaceful the goldfish looks floating around in their little bowl? Ever wonder if humans can achieve that level of calmness?
When you’re expecting, nothing is more exciting than thinking about finally getting to meet your baby at the end of nine months. As a former kindergarten teacher, nothing was more exciting than fostering both academic and personal skills in my students over 10 months and seeing how they have changed by graduation. As a retired teacher turned health consultant, I never thought that I would have the opportunity to help more children at once than I did during my full teaching career. I feel as if I have been birthing I Am A Peaceful Goldfish over the last 6 years and it is finally going to be read by families at a time we need it the most.
In my last year teaching, my son was having a hard time after school one day. I was also having a hard day. All I wanted for him at that moment was to be able to feel calm and happy. As I immersed myself more into a holistic lifestyle I became more interested in mindfulness and meditation as a way to help me settle my mental wellness. I searched my bookshelf, the library, and the internet for a book that would teach him to take deep intentional breaths when he feels his mind and body getting out of control. But there was no book to be found.
So I created it.
When I would feel my pulse rising, or hear negative self-talk in my head, or even racing thoughts, I would picture positivity settling into my body with each breath in and I would envision the unwanted energy leaving my body, never to return, with each breath out. But that was a little too abstract for young children. So I thought about the day-to-day objects children love and what brings them comfort and familiarity. I pulled from imaginative play and how many children enjoy running around breathing fire like a dragon. Or how against every parent’s will, they run out into the yard and blow on every dandelion creating a summer flurry. And I finally came to imagine a quiet, content goldfish, floating in its bowl as calm as calm can be. While I did not want this to be my children all the time, I wished they could achieve that state and stay grounded when harder situations arrived.
This is not a skill kids can just pick up when they are feeling those wild emotions. Together with an adult, they have to practice taking deep breaths while they are calm so when they were coached to do the same during tantrums or anxious times, they would have more success. And not only that, they could anchor the act of taking deep breaths to their favourite animal or object from the book and receive verbal cues from their parents and caretakers. And maybe most of all, that meant that they would be exposed to mindful breathing at a young age which could positively impact their life as adults. I think we can all agree that we wish we had learned some stress-relieving techniques earlier in life.
More and more adults and children are living with anxiety, looking for ways to simply get back to the calm state of a peaceful goldfish.
I thought the magic was creating a tool to teach children now so that they did not have to find out about this technique as an adult. But the magic is that families will come together, learn together and breathe together and be lifted through the repetitive text, colorful images, and breathe while mental health is most likely at its lowest.
The best is when schools and parents work together. Creating consistent language and practices can mean more success for children as they not only get more practice, but the cues for calmness remain the same. I always suggest parents ask teachers what mindfulness techniques are being used in the classroom and share what they are using at home. It helps children find harmony.
Many tools should be in a mental health toolbox. But it’s not all about closing your eyes and breathing.
It starts with eating a nutrient-dense plant-based or plant-heavy diet with a minimal amount of processed foods. Feed the belly, feed the mind.
Maybe “be one with nature” is a little too granola for you, but do get outside in nature. It’s ok to take off your socks and feel the grass between your toes, and even the mud. Sure it’s messy, but you and you’re child will be better for it.
Surround yourselves with good people who you love and who love and respect all of you. And have some fun with them.
Positive self-talk and making the effort to be grateful every single day are part of my secrets to success. Try a gratitude journal with pre-teens or teens at bedtime and sharing your highs and lows of the day with the family at dinner. Getting the pain off your chest can help it from staying bundled up.
Are some days hard? Of course. Can we do all these things every day? Probably not. But making the effort is well worth it for you and your child’s mental health. Having the tools in the toolbox not too far away does help.
Sending love, light, and caring thoughts to families of all shapes, numbers, and sizes right now. Be safe, be happy and be calm like the peaceful goldfish.
About the Author
SHOSHANA CHAIM is a former kindergarten and physical education teacher turned wellness expert who works with strong women and their families to guide them on their holistic health journeys by meeting them where they are so they can improve cellular communication and achieve their health and life goals. She also teaches these tools to health practitioners so they can make the world a healthier and happier place. She is a founder of Plant Trainers, hosts The Plant Trainers Podcast, and works with an advanced health biotechnology company. Her new book, I Am A Peaceful Goldfish, teaches children the importance of mindfulness and taking big breaths in a fun and imaginative way. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.