Mindfulness is definitely one of those trending words right now. If you only have a small connection to education or parenting you have probably heard this term, and are potentially wondering why it’s such a big word right now. Often times these trending words hit their high point, and then fall away as quickly as they came. Only to be replaced by the next new hot topic in parenting or education.
At the surface level mindfulness has the potential of being another gone by the wayside idea. I would argue, however, that it actually has more staying power than one may think. Reason being, it has already survived for thousands of years. It has roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, and has a deep history in these two religions. It is deeply grounded in Eastern culture, and the Western world seems to be just recently catching up.
In addition to its rich history, mindfulness is much more than a mental health trend. It is a lifestyle and a mindset. There are pieces of it that can be practiced on their own, with potential positive results, but it works best when it is adopted as a lifestyle. Embedding pieces of mindfulness can start from toddlerhood, which can lay the foundation for future practice and balance in one’s life.
It can, however, be quite intimidating for anybody to incorporate mindfulness in their life. Adults can struggle figuring out how to do this themselves, much less finding ways to make it a meaningful part of our children’s lives. My goal in writing this is to share with you simple, low stress ways, that we have found to incorporate mindfulness strategies into our children’s everyday lives.
This is a new practice for us this year, and I am truly enjoying it. Mornings can be a STRUGGLE, especially during the week. I am on my own with the two youngest most mornings, and I can easily get worked into a frenzy. When thinking of ways for our morning time to improve, I immediately turned to more connection. If our time together is all about me being stressed, getting frustrated with my kids and pushing them to get ready, we are all going to feel disconnected and discombobulated. If my goal is to have my family feel loved and connected, then I needed to make it a priority.
So, with that in mind, we started a new morning practice. When wake up time comes, the three of us snuggle up on the couch. We all take a big deep breath and hug on each other. Then, I ask each kid who they want to send kind wishes to today. An important component of mindfulness is being intentional. I’m also working on empathy with them, so we take a moment to intentionally send kind thoughts to people in our life that we love. We then hug on each other one more time, and then move on with our morning.
Highs and Lows
We use dinner as an important learning opportunity. We eat together most nights, which is great for connection in and of itself. When our middle child was three (now five) we introduced our nightly routine. We would go around the table and ask each other the same questions each night. It started as follows:
What was something good that happened today?
What was something not so good?
How did you help somebody today?
As the years have gone by this has morphed a bit. Children have added suggestions, or I have wanted to add a new focus area. Right now, in addition to the three listed above, we also ask:
We will also, at times, add, “What are you thankful for?” We don’t do this one every time, as I feel as though it may lose its meaning. Therefore, we sprinkle it in every once and awhile.
In addition to mindfulness, these dinner conversations also practice listening skills, turn taking, and incorporate self-awareness, growth mindset, interpersonal interactions and empathy.
Each night our kids follow the same routine, which ends with a song. They each get their own song, same one since birth, and we sing it together. This may not seem like a huge mindful activity at face value, but we make it into a practice moment. I model taking deep breaths, and comment on how my body feels before and after we sing. If I notice that they are having a hard time settling, we talk about noticing how their body feels, and things that we can do to settle our bodies down for the night. It’s a great time to connect, and we all look forward to it.
Managing Screen Time
There are so many debates regarding screen time, and I’ll be the first person to admit that sometimes my kids have more than I would like. We do, as a practice, have consistent limits regarding screens. One reason being is that we want our children to practice interacting with the world around them. For example, we say no to screens for car rides (unless it’s a trip) and in restaurants. This allows us and them to practice noticing the world around them. Again, I model, and then we have more conversations and interact more as a family, instead of all looking at screens.
In our mind, mindfulness starts with a solid foundation. If the foundational skills that we try to teach through these activities are an integral part of my children’s lives, then we can expand on this with more mindfulness skills as they grow. These are simple strategies, and are not the only strategies that we have embedded into our lives to help us, and our children, set the foundation for a happy centered life. So, go for it! Pick a strategy you read above, and leave me a comment letting me know how you incorporated it into your routine!