Teaching Mindfulness To Kids

Teaching mindfulness to kids has a lot to do with staying out of nature’s way. Children have the innate ability to live in the present moment. They’re aware of what’s going on in their bodies and express their needs freely. They let go easily, they cry when they’re hurt and they can laugh the very next moment when they’re not feeling the pain anymore. The simplest objects can capture their attention for a long time.

RELATED: 5 Tips For Mindful Parenting

As they grow, they learn to dwell on the past, worry about the future and keep their minds busy with outside distractions like we do. To some extent this is inevitable – no one is mindful all the time. But we can make sure that our kids can call on their mindfulness skills when they need them, and here are some ways to do it.

Share your own mindfulness practice with your kids

To teach your kids about mindfulness, first you must practice it yourself. You can choose something easy to share with your kids like a 5-minute meditation, or a mindfulness walk where you guide them to notice the feelings in their bodies and what is happening around them in the present moment.

Even if they just see you doing it, they’re likely to join in. I was struggling to find alone time for my daily meditation during the school holidays. So, I’d announce that I was going to meditate and the kids were not to disturb me, and I’d get on with it. More often than not, when I was finished, I’d find little people sitting next to me quietly with their eyes closed.

Practice gratitude

Gratitude is a perfect and easy way to notice and appreciate things that are right here and now. You can make it a formal practice at the same time every day (for example, before bed), or you can share things that you’re grateful for throughout the day and ask your children to do the same. It’s easy to turn it into a game, and the kids will quickly begin to notice more of the world around them and how it enriches their lives.

Use simple mindfulness activities

Ask your children to tune into their emotions and tell you how they’re feeling. Or listen to a piece of music together, focusing just on the music. Put on some guided mediations for kids (try the Smiling Mind app).

Teaching mindfulness to kids doesn’t have to take time out of your day. Each one of your daily activities can be turned into a mindfulness practice if you remember to focus on the present moment only, and invite your children to do the same.

Image via Pixabay

April 26, 2015

Has Technology Made Us Distracted Parents?

On the first day of the school holidays I found myself gravitating towards my phone too often. I was checking emails, browsing websites for the latest school holidays info that I had to have immediately, I even played a game. It felt like my mind was so used to going at a fast speed that slow was no longer an option. I had to keep myself occupied.

RELATED: iPhone Addiction: Fact Or Fiction

And I wasn’t alone. I watched other parents at the playground. Some of them were on their phones the whole time. Others would stop and check their devices every now and then. It was a rare parent that remained technology-free while I was watching.

Then I tried to see the situation from my children’s point of view. What does this technology craze mean to them?

  • That our devices are more important to us than they are. Far-fetched, I know, but this is exactly how I feel sometimes when my husband wouldn’t leave his phone alone and it’s easy to imagine that my children would feel the same way about me.
  • That it’s good to be connected at all times, ignoring face-to-face communications in favour of digital ones. We, parents, are role models and our children will learn from us. Do I like to imagine my kids attached to their devices at all times and hardly paying attention to anything else around them? Absolutely not, what a scary picture!

I’d love to be able to say that I changed my technology habits as soon as I realised how they were affecting my parenting, but it wouldn’t be true. It took me about a week of paying attention, setting limits and reminding myself to put the phone down before I got to a point where I consider my phone use reasonable. It’s still a work in progress and it’s still not coming easy to me, but I’m getting better at it. You can, too. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Decide on limits that will allow you to stay connected without threading on your family time.
  • Remember to turn off your devices while you’re talking to your children and make an effort to focus on them (it’s good manners).
  • Leave your phone behind to go out with your kids for a few hours. Notice how you’re feeling without it.
  • Ask your children to keep you accountable. Are you feeling reluctant to do it? This is because you know just how effective it can be.

Sounds like too much work? It gets easier. After a few days you realise that the world is not going to end if you check your email twice a day instead of every 3 minutes and you’re not missing out on anything important if you’re not on Facebook all the time. The smiles on your kids’ faces make it all well worth it.

Image by JESHOOTS via pixabay.com

January 8, 2015

5 Tips For Mindful Parenting

Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment, without judgement. When it comes to parenting, being mindful is means to be fully present for your children and accept them for who they are. Why wouldn’t any parent want to be mindful?

But it’s not as easy as it seems. Our minds are constantly busy with financial worries, the task on our to-do list and encounters we had last week that didn’t quite go as expected. Have you ever reacted to your child’s seemingly innocent request with unkind words? Or listened to them talk just to realise, when your child asked you a question, that you had no idea what the conversation was about? Here are a few tips on how to turn this around and bring more mindfulness into your parenting:

Get more sleep

Most of us are not getting nearly enough sleep and this is affecting our ability to enjoy the present moment. If just keeping your eyes open is a mighty effort, then it’s nearly impossible to give your attentions to anything or anyone else. When you haven’t had enough rest, you’re much more likely to make mistakes, rush or snap at your children.

Allow more time

We often allow our schedules to run our time and being late is a trigger for many of us. Children, on the other hand, have the natural ability to be mindful and curious about the world around them. If we make it a habit of leaving a few minutes earlier for school and appointments, we can allow our children to be children while at the same time avoiding the unnecessary stress of running late.

Practice keeping your work separate

This is particularly true for those of us who work from home, or bring our work home from the office. It helps to have separate time scheduled for work, when your kids are looked after by someone else. When you know that you will get time to do your work (as opposed to trying to squeeze in some work everywhere you can), your mind can relax and stay present when you’re not working.

Leave your phone behind

Do you reach for your phone as soon as you feel bored or worried? It’s so easy to let this habit get out of hand. You think you’ll be on the phone for a moment and next thing you know, it’s been half an hour and your children are not even in sight any more. Practice leaving your phone behind (or at least putting limits on how often you look at it) when you’re spending time with your kids.

Be gentle with yourself

The chances are, you’re not going to get mindfulness perfectly worked out, ever. Just as you’re trying to be there for your children without judgement, do the same for yourself. When you find yourself reacting in an angry way or thinking of your next vacation while playing hide-and-seek, just notice and come back to the present moment.

Mindful parenting is an amazing gift we can give to our children, who crave to be seen and accepted just the way they are. But, as you can see, being able to parent mindfully is not about your children. It’s about you. It’s about creating space, love and acceptance for yourself before you can give it to others.

Image by Vera Kratochvil via PublicDomainPictures.net

By Tatiana Apostolova

July 3, 2014