Dr. Shelja Sen, Child & Adolescent Psychologist and Family Therapist is also the author of ‘All You Need is Love: The Art of Mindful Parenting’ and ‘Imagine: No Child Left Invisible’

Dr. Shelja Sen, Child & Adolescent Psychologist and Family Therapist, co-founded ‘Children First’ in 2004 as a commitment to building communities of concern for children and youth. Today her practice is one of the most sought after.

“We started working as a team and over the years built a transdisciplinary team of most committed, skilled professionals. The main objective initially was to move away from a hospital setting and establish a children’s centre in the community, which provided effective, ethical and culturally evolved services,” shared Dr. Sen on the journey of ‘Children First’.

However, as the journey progressed, they learnt that their vision and intent was much more than creating ‘a centre’.

The services they provide include clinical services, developmental centre (for children with neurodevelopmental difficulties), Schools That Care (school mental health programme), Communities That Care programme (building awareness on child & adolescent mental health especially Depression, suicide, substance abuse) and skills building trainings for parents, teachers and professionals around the year.

Dr. Sen is also the author of ‘All You Need is Love: The Art of Mindful Parenting’ and ‘Imagine: No Child Left Invisible’.

She does regular workshops on parenting at ‘Children First’, schools and other organisations to teach parents to bring up happy kids and communicate with them lovingly.

“These workshops are interactive and focus on building mindfulness in parents. When as parents we become mindful then we become more aware, conscious of our inadequacies, struggles, and wounds. And rather than lashing it out and passing them on to our children we learn from them. Parenting my children has helped me grow and become more sensitive and aware,” she explained.

She recommends parents “parent” in this fashion to maintain healthy open bonds.

“I have crafted what I call a ‘five C’ model that has helped me to design an effective and creative way of parenting children. My first book ‘All You Need is Love: The Art of Mindful Parenting’ is about that – Connect, Coach, Community, Care and Commit – the five essential anchors of parenting. In fact, the five C approach is at the core of any relationship be at parent-child, teacher-students or even leadership,” she elaborated.

Dr. Sen is a passionate campaigner for playfulness – “we adults get too stuck and serious,” in her opinion.

“We need to be more silly, funny, laugh more, dance, sing, be crazy – I believe that playfulness is a great recipe for de-stressing and in turn joy, love, and peace,” she stresses.

In today’s day where the level of exposure is mammoth and peer pressure is rampant, Dr. Sen recommends having more meaningful conversations with children rather than lecturing children, which really does not work in her opinion. “Once children are heard and their views respected then they are much more open to listening to adults’ perspectives,” she emphasises.

The label of ADHD is used excessively and is often blamed on diet and devices Dr. Sen clarified that it is a, “Neurodevelopmental disorder and is not caused by devices or diets.”

Though excess use of devices or diets full of sugar and caffeine might exacerbate it, according to her.

“ADHD is one of the most misunderstood conditions and many times children with ADHD are labelled as ‘lazy’, ‘slow learners’ and ‘difficult’. These negative or problem saturated narratives do much more damage to them than the ADHD. Children with ADHD can be very creative, think out of the box and full of energy. At our organisation, we do regular workshops for parents and teachers which we call “Sparkling Minds”,” she shared.

Dr. Sen believes that we need to incorporate mindfulness and meditation in our schools at a granular level. Not as a ‘lesson’ that has to be taught to children but as a daily practice to help children and teachers learn this necessary life skill.

She says, “There is a lot of research on how teaching children mindfulness in schools is related to lesser emotional and behavioural difficulties, higher level of emotional regulation, attentional control, ability to be more empathetic, take multiple perspectives and manage stress. In my book ‘Imagine: No Child Left Invisible’, I have discussed that in detail. Therefore, simple daily practices like mindful breathing before starting a class, body scan or even loving-kindness meditation can be powerful too. Some schools have mindful gongs that go off at random times during the day and everybody has to pause and take a mindful breath wherever they are.”

“As one child from one of these schools explained to me, ‘Our mind and body are like a bowl of water (three-quarters of it is water you know!). If there are ripples in it, you will not be able to see yourself clearly. However, if you let it settle down, you can see your reflection so clearly.’ I could not have agreed with her more!”

Dr, Shelja Sen will be speaking at the 8th edition of TEDxGateway taking place on 4th February 2018 in Mumbai. Taking forward the theme of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’, TEDx Gateway is bringing 25 motivational speakers from different walks of life who will share their inspiring experiences and stories on varied topics ranging from science, inventions to creative art forms.


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