Q: Since the pandemic, we’ve heard about the benefits of mindfulness and how important it is. As a result, many parents and families have started making it a habit. So, how can families practice mindfulness and start kids at a young age?
A: With busy schedules, increased screen-time, and less social gathering, the pandemic made practicing mindfulness more important than ever. The benefits of practicing mindfulness include strengthening your relationships, increasing mental well-being for parents and children, and bringing your family closer together. At its core, mindfulness is the ability to focus on being present in the moment. From neuroscience researchers, here are a few ways to effectively practice mindfulness with your family. The most important thing to remember is that mindfulness is used as a calming technique for both children and adults.
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Mindfulness For Parents
If you are new to practicing mindfulness, set up a 5 minute routine for yourself. For example, this could be a morning or evening seated meditation, words of affirmations, or deep breathing. The key is to focus on all your senses while observing your breath and calm your thoughts. Think of this as a daily workout for your mind, so you’re ready to take on the day. The reason to start with your practicing first is because children, by nature, are born with an innate sense of presence.
Mindfulness to Calm Tantrums
During a tantrum, when you’re stressed, or upset the 5 senses exercise is a great way to calm down and be in the moment. This is something the whole family can do together, or each on their own. Focus on what’s around you. Notice and name 5 things you see. Then, notice and name 4 things that you can feel. Use your sense of touch to describe different textures. Name and notice 3 things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you can taste or can imagine the taste. The purpose of this exercise is to become more in tune with your surroundings and the present moment.
Another exercise your family can do together daily is practice appreciation and gratitude. We all want to feel seen and appreciated and intentionally taking time to express gratitude towards one another strengthens your family bond and puts your mind in a positive place. You can do this anywhere. For example, at the dinner table, everyone can go around and say something they are grateful for or what they appreciate about another family member. Another, less structured, example is acknowledging small moments of appreciation like when your kids or partner empties the dishwasher or is ready on time. These small acts of appreciation can shift the culture of the house from demanding and frustrated to cooperative and grateful. Another example could be including mindfulness in your bedtime routine by doing a breathing exercise or listing 3 good things that happened today and how they made you feel.
Guided Mindfulness Apps
If you are looking for a more structured approach, there are apps that provide guided practice and that are kid-friendly such as Smiling Mind, Headspace, or The Mindfulness App.