When I think of mindfulness, I think how wonderful it sounds and of all the amazing benefits it can have on brain function, happiness, productivity, and the ability to be patient with my children. I say to myself, “I really want to start practicing mindfulness and I wan’t my kids to learn too!”
Then I am discouraged to discover that I can’t focus, it’s too hard, and I just don’t have time (insert any number of other excuses) until I remember that adopting a new habit can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean I should give up!
Summer is an ideal time to tackle this new mindfulness challenge because you are most likely already adjusting to a new schedule, and you have a beginning and end date to see if you can reach some of your mindfulness goals. Also, mindfulness is something kids can learn and benefit from just as much as adults. Mindfulness activities and practice are things you can do together as a family.
Here are some resources to get you started:
This New York Times article defines mindfulness as “the simple practice of bringing a gentle, accepting attitude to the present moment.” Easy right?! Well, read on for tips on how to practice mindfulness beginning with your infant or toddler (being fully present during diapering, feeding, a walking meditation to soothe a fussy baby) and how to continue the practice with older kids (including breathing, identifying sensations, being present). There are also additional resources provided at the end of the article. For more background on why mindfulness can be so beneficial for kids, read “The Mindful Child.”
The New York Times blog delivers this quick read offering three simple ways to introduce children to mindfulness at home, including mindful breathing. I like these ideas because they engage the mind and body in an age appropriate way.
The Positive Psychology Program has a great write up with tips and mindfulness activities for kids and teens. Some examples are practicing mindful poses, making a mindful jar (the glitter inside represents your thoughts when you are upset or stressed so it’s a visual representation of how your mind can get cloudy; waiting and breathing until it clears is helpful), taking a mindfulness walk, and guided meditations.
This Huffpost article has additional suggestions for teaching mindfulness to kids, and reminds us that there will be a bit of trial and error. Keep experimenting and find what works best for your littles.
Start with simple goals, such as: “I will take five minutes at the start of every day this summer to practice mindfulness (be aware, notice my body and my emotional state and make no judgement),” or “I will try one new mindfulness activity with my kids per week this summer,” or “I will commit to a practice taking 10 deep breaths next time I get really frustrated or angry with my kids.”
Find something that is right for you and commit to it for the summer. Remember, baby steps are okay. You may find that you feel less stressed or more patient and notice changes in your littles too. Good luck!