Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Cultivating mindfulness is becoming increasingly important for children and parents in the modern world. Children and parents are arguably more stressed than they’ve ever been before, between being overscheduled and the consistent bombardment of information and technology.
Children and parents rush around from work and school to various activities, sometimes feeling like they are underwater and have not come up for air. Children and parents have multiple devices, ipads, screens in schools, and even restaurants now. We have to work at unplugging ourselves to even tune into the natural world around us.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness involves slowing down and processing information piece by piece; think the opposite of multitasking.
It means having the presence of mind and awareness of what is happening within the physical body, the mind (thoughts), words, and behaviors. It involves thoughtful deliberation. Mindfulness allows space for concentration and insight. Concentration helps with focus. As our focus begins to clear, it paves a pathway for more insight.
Insight is what makes transformation possible. We can boil mindfulness down to three main elements- being in the present moment, paying attention, and acceptance/curiosity.
How can mindfulness help?
Mindfulness can help us to slow down, and appreciate life and the people and experiences in it.
Many therapists are using mindfulness tools and techniques to assist people in working through a variety of issues including anxiety and depression.
How mindfulness can change your family
Even a few minutes of mindfulness, daily with your family can be really valuable for your relationship with your child. Mindfulness promotes compassion within the family.
It can help improve listening skills, which naturally leads to improvements in overall communication. Mindfulness helps to cultivate virtues like patience, gratitude, and empathy. It’s easy to do, and anyone of any age can learn mindfulness techniques to improve their mood, lives, and relationships. There are various ways to practice mindfulness with your family to foster healthy relationships and overcome stress in families.
Steps for raising the mindful family
Learn the art of meditation
Many people think meditation and immediately have a vision of someone in the far East sitting on a cushion chanting. However, meditation can be as simple and accessible as breathing. A simple breathing meditation involves square breathing.
Imagine a square before you. Start in the lower left-hand corner. As you trace up the side of the square, breathe into the count of 4.
Then hold the breath for a count of 4 at the top, imagine traversing clockwise, across the top of the square. Then down the other side, exhale to a count of 4. And finally, hold the breath for a count of 4, completing the square. 2-3 minutes of this breathing technique is all it takes to relieve the body of the stress response and center the mind.
Make it a point to disconnect from technology. Have technology free zones and/or times in your home. Try out device-free dinners.
Practice active listening. When your partner or children are talking with you, actively listen to what they are saying, without allowing your mind to begin formulating a response before they are finished. Make eye contact and engage in conversation. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying and observe their body language.
Engage your senses. Take time during the day to stop what you are doing and tune in to your senses. Notice what you see/observe. Notice how you feel in your body as you are observing. Take time to smell and taste what you are eating. Notice what you hear, especially while outside, enjoying time in Nature.
Mindful activities for families
Create mindfulness games- One of my favorites is called Dr. Distracto- give your child a task to complete and set a 1-2 minute time limit. Then, practice creating distractions to try and get the child off task. If the child remains on task, he/she gets to be the distraction (Dr. Distracto).
Model mindfulness with your children- When you are at the park or in your yard, point to the flowers on the bushes and take turns smelling them with your child. Lie in the grass and notice how it feels and smells. Look up at the cloud formations in the sky and take turns describing the images you see to one another.
Allow children time for nothingness- From boredom emerges great creative insights! Children who are constantly occupied do not have time to experience a wandering mind and to generate creative energies and insights. Scheduling in time for nothing allows children the freedom to create.