“I wish you…well.” If you practice loving kindness meditation or have ever been in a Head Start classroom you are probably familiar with these words. About half of my current job is spent in Head Start classrooms as a mental health intervention specialist. When I walk into the classroom at the beginning of the day, teachers and children sit in a circle on a big colorful carpet. The teacher writes the names of absent children on hearts and then the whole class puts their arms across their hearts then open their arms while saying, “We wish you well.”
What has always struck me is that children really take this concept seriously, and almost every time I’m in a classroom, there has been a child ask to wish someone else well too. “Teacher what about my grandpa? He’s sick. Can I wish him well too?” “I want to wish my dad well. He’s in jail and we can’t see him now.” “I want to wish my aunt well, she moved away.” For even little children, there are all too often big life worries involving key attachment figures and supports in their lives and this is a great way for them to express their care and concern for whoever they need to.
As I’ve begun reading more about meditation and mindfulness, I’ve realized this concept is great or everyone, even adults. It is especially helpful to apply to people we are not particularly fond of. The person with road rage behind us- “May he have peace.” An irritating coworker- “May you be well.” This helps us let go of negative feelings we hold towards others and move toward forgiveness and compassion. For children, this topic can also be used in this way. For example, a child becomes repeatedly upset about a peer not sharing and tells every adult who will listen. “It sounds like you are upset he wouldn’t share with you today. Let’s wish him well so he won’t feel soangry and he can have fun with his fiends. I’ll come sit with you and him and we can show him how to share, ok? I think he would like to have friends too.” Of course children should also be taught assertiveness skills and understand that if a person continues to be hurtful, they don’t have to be around that person. Although, at the same time, they can still choose to let go of angry feelings towards the person.
What a great way to reframe situations we encounter everyday?! Try it yourself and with the little ones in your life. Ask them who they would like to wish well today. You may be surprised what they come up with.