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Emerging Writer Member Profile

Alex Koster

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Member Bio:

My name is Alex Koster, I am a teacher, mum, author and mindfulness practitioner and I live in County Tipperary with my husband and two young daughters. I am originally from Germany where I trained as a primary school teacher.

I have always had a great interest in education, and specifically in “wholesome” education that does not purely focus on academia, but supports children in their emotional well-being, their creativity, their imagination and desire to explore things independently, and their need for movement and outdoor experiences. I have practiced and studied mindfulness for many years and am incorporating it into our daily life and my work as a teacher as an invaluable tool to support our emotional well-being.

Our society has changed dramatically in the last few decades and I had been looking on for a few years helpless and with great worry about the developments in children’s well-being. That’s when I decided that I had to at least try and contribute to a positive change based not only on my experience as a teacher, mum and my mindfulness practice but also do extensive research in order to put on paper what I believe will contribute to raising resilient, confident, compassionate and happy children.

Writing sample

The reality of mindful parenting

One of my biggest fears about publishing my book was that people would get the wrong idea about me and the reasoning for writing it. I was afraid people might think that I am of the opinion to have all the answers, that my children start the day by hugging each other and professing how grateful they are for all their blessings, that our house is a peaceful haven with relaxing meditation music playing in the background, while I prepare our organically grown wholesome meals and that we solve any conflicts in a peaceful and understanding manner.

Well… let me tell you… the main reason for writing this book was that I was actually LOOKING for all the answers, or at least some of them. Granted, I had been practicing and studying mindfulness for some time, I had been a teacher for a good few years but I was very “new” in the parenting business. All of a sudden many of the concerns I had beforehand were now actually affecting ourselves and our children. It’s funny how much more urgent things get when they move closer to your core. I was always interested in children’s happiness and well being over purely academic education in my work as a teacher, but now it became vital to take action in order to influence a positive future for my children and myself as a parent.

We all want our children to grow up in a society that is supportive, tolerant, accepting and inclusive, at least I hope the majority of us do, don’t we? I grew up in a family with good core values. We were brought up to respect others, to be helpful and friendly, to be protective of our environment and not to take the resources of our earth for granted and be wasteful. From a young age we were encouraged to connect to nature, to read, to be creative and learn basic life skills that would help us in the future to live independently. I believe that our children are a continuation of us, of our parents and grandparents and it is our responsibility and an honour to pass on valuable lessons and skills (or to prevent us making the same mistakes!) for them to be able to lead a happy life.

Becoming a mum really made me think of what I believed were the most important lessons, values and skills that I want to pass on to my children. Many of these already were important for my work as a teacher but becoming a parent is a very different kettle of fish. It went much deeper than anything before and touched something inside me, I didn’t even know existed. It is all well and good and very important to pass on family traditions and lessons we learned ourselves along the way, one of the main issues though lies in the different times our children are growing up in.

I became a mum quite late in life, so there is an even bigger difference between the life and world I grew up in, and the circumstances our children were born into. Even though the core values and lessons might be the same, the environment and society have changed dramatically and children (and parents/educators) need a different map with different instructions to navigate modern day challenges.

This was my starting point when I began writing the book: what do I believe is important for children (and grown-ups) to grow up well and be “happy”, what is as important now as it ever was, what are the new challenges and how could we address and overcome these and do our best to provide a toolkit for being resilient even in difficult circumstances?

The process of researching, writing and practicing was basically providing a compass, a guide for my own parenting and teaching. I have gained so many valuable insights, met amazing teachers, learned fantastic strategies and I am passionate about a mindful approach for raising children and for everyday life. That does not mean that we as a family don’t encounter the same problems and hurdles as any other family! A mindful approach has most definitely though contributed to being able to stop, pause, evaluate and becoming more aware of the present moment and what is actually happening, rather than having imaginary arguments inside our heads. It’s an invaluable skill to enable us taking a break ever so often, a breather in these busy and often overwhelming times helping us to make necessary adjustments and decisions for our life.

Here’s a little story about the realities of a mindful approach to family life ;-) :

A couple of days ago I was going to do a short meditation with my two girls (4 and 6 years old). They were both happy to go along until I asked them to lie down beside each other on one of their beds. One of them wanted the blanket pulled up, the other wanted the blanket pulled down. Then one needed more space but the other didn’t want to move. The younger sister closed her eyes with a mock peaceful facial expression folding her hands while the older girl tried to push her off the bed getting more and more annoyed. After a few minutes trying to diffuse the tension (without success) I took the cd player and left the room which resulted in both of them crying and accusing each other that it was their fault. We all managed to make up after a short while but my intentions and the actual result were miles apart ;-).

A few years ago I might have felt as If I had failed, especially as I was trying to encourage some quiet quality time to re-connect but achieved quite the opposite. I still get frustrated, don’t get me wrong, but I am more and more able to pull myself back and sometimes just let it go and accept thing as they are. It is unrealistic, even with the best intentions of a mindful lifestyle, to expect peace and harmony at all times. The biggest lesson I have learned is that there is no perfect parenting, no perfect parents and no perfect children. We all should accept that sometimes, or should I say quite often, things just don’t go as planned. This “revelation” is so liberating as it frees us from a lot of unnecessary guilt and a feeling of failure or not being good enough! Nobody is perfect, nobody ever will be, and that’s perfectly fine. Every day is a new day, a day to start fresh.

I love this quote by Maya Angelou and for me it’s one of the best pieces of advice I ever got:

“Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.”

If that’s all we ever do, we’ll be doing very well!

Current project

I released my first book "Roots and Wings - Childhood needs a revolution", a handbook for parents and educators to promote positive change based on the principles of mindfulness in January.

The experience of childhood has changed dramatically over the last decades. Children and teenagers are presented with many exciting opportunities, but they also face new challenges and are often asked to meet impossible standards set by our modern lifestyle and promoted by the media. Children are more and more often subjected to “childhood stress” and are presenting with increasing mental health issues. Roots and Wings is a book encouraging and supporting parents and educators to teach children the skills they need to understand and navigate modern life and its challenges with more ease and confidence. Some of the topics covered in Part 1 include:

• background information on mindfulness and the neuroscience behind it
• creating healthy parent­–child relationships
• the importance of self-care
• recognising and tackling mental health issues
• emotional education
• the need to go back to basics
• the necessity of outdoor experiences
• building and maintaining self-esteem and self-compassion
• understanding the influence of social media and technology
• the importance of gratitude and kindness for happiness

Part 2 of the book gives concrete ideas, activities and resources that can be easily implemented into everyday life and tailored to your personal circumstances.

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