Celebrating International Day of Peace
By Karen M. Rider
Peace, I have learned, is not something that just happens by itself. The practice of peace begins with every individual on this planet. For peace to become our global reality, it must be cultivated by each one of us… in our thoughts, our beliefs, and especially in our words and our actions. And, I have learned it must begin at home, in our families and especially in how we interact with and correct our children.
More often than I would like, my two young daughters demonstrate warfare tactics that would make a general proud. No matter what I model for them, how I speak (or don’t speak) to them, it is a perpetual struggle to cultivate peaceful problem solving between these “darlings.” Despite monitoring and changing my own behavior, I am left clueless about how to teach peace to my children. Between the shouting, hitting and stomping off to another room, I have begun to wonder if that is even possible.
Teaching Children to Practice Peace in Sweden
In Sweden, more than 300,000 children are practicing peace through?a program called Peaceful Touch® (P.T.), developed by Hans Axelson in Stockholm in the early 1990’s. The program integrates respectful, healthy touch with a child’s daily activities. From reading and storytelling to math, science problems and physical activities such as yoga, these children are learning to use their hands as instruments of peace, instead of warfare. The children calmly and gently use one another’s back, or even an arm, to trace numbers or letters, solve simple math problems or draw figures from a story. Sometimes the children form a “massage train” or help each other roll into “cooked spaghetti” while lying in savasana (relaxation) pose.
Peaceful Touch® is widely used in the home, in school classrooms, and other curricular settings. Swedish parents and teachers have reported that children partaking in a P.T. program, over time, have lower levels of anxiety and aggressive behavior, improved concentration, greater confidence and enhanced peer relationships including group cohesion and cooperation. The P.T. philosophy is based on three fundamentals. First, touch is necessary for human growth and development. Second, P.T. embraces a permission granting process that helps establish appropriate boundaries between children. The third foundation is the oxytocin factor. Scientific evidence has demonstrated the touch of another human (or even a cuddly pet), triggers the body to produce the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin generates a calming effect throughout the body. Healthy, peaceful touch is necessary for our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well being.