Mindful Parenting & Tips for Your Kids: Nipping Stress, Anxiety, & Other Struggles in the Bud!
With school just around the corner, it's important for us to take some time to mentally and emotionally prepare for what's in store.
Without question, school can be a major stress trigger for kids and their families. Teachers and the entire school system have your children's best interest in mind, but it can often be an unpredictable environment. If we don't have the tools and strategies of how to work with our emotions, engage with others in a healthy and positive way, how to set boundaries, and how to be ourselves, it can be a difficult place to thrive in.
Luckily, just stepping back and getting back to the basics is the most proactive way to help you and your child flourish where ever they are!
What is Mindfulness?
Picture a little girl. This little girl is obsessed with sleeping with her blankie. She's had it every night when she goes to sleep since she can even remember. Lo and behold, she forgets it when going for a sleep over at Grandma and Grandpas. What to do?
She needs to pay less attention to the troubling thoughts of not having her comfort item - her blankie. So, Grandma slowly takes her granddaughter's attention from her scary thoughts down her belly. There are no thoughts in her belly, just breath. Just the rise and fall of her little tummy. It's a gentle and relaxing movement that has rocked her granddaughter to sleep.
Mindfulness is deliberate and friendly attention that keeps you out of the negative chatter of the mind. And guess what? It's great for all ages!
Parenting with Intention & Mindfulness
There are 3 qualities that a parent can have to have a relaxing effect on their children. Parenting can be very demanding, but if you stick with these qualities you will have an amazing influence on your child. These suggestions come from an amazing resource, "Sitting Still Like a Frog". I highly recommend have this on hand to teach your child about Mindfulness/emotional education.
1. Presence: be there with your children - in the moment. Set aside your phone, let pesky to-do list thoughts fade away, and become open, curious and generous with your kids. Be in the moment no matter what it is: a temper tantrum, tugging your pant leg for attention, their sloppy kiss on your cheek; it's all just as it needs to be and needs no changing.
Don't get me wrong, I know we all have things to do in a day - we all do. But, make sure you're setting aside time to JUST BE as you do the same for your other tasks throughout the day! This will also help alleviate your own stress, brain fog, and energy levels so you actually can be more productive when you have the chance. Win-win!
2. Understanding: this quality allows you to put yourself in THEIR SHOES. Being genuinely interested in what's happening in your child's life/their inner world will give you insight that you didn't once have. Talk to them, ask them how they're feeling, or ask about specific times in their day and see what they have to say. If they're spilling their heart out to your, in whatever kind of emotion that is, LISTEN. Don't tell them to "suck it up" or make them feel like how they're feeling is wrong. Listen and help them feel heard by not trying to change or fix their feelings. Give them a hug, validate their feelings and move on.
In doing all of this, it will also allow you to see the big picture and what your child may need from you.
3. Acceptance: not only is this key for your kids - it's beneficial for you as a parent as well. As mentioned before, feelings don't need to be manipulated or changed. "Acceptance of those moments when your child fails to meet your expectations, yell when they ought to be quiet, forget to thank Grandma for her lovely present, appear to be ungrateful, or assume that you have extremely thick skin. But it is also about accepting all those moments when you are not present or kind, when you do not have the patience of a saint and you are less than an ideal parent."
Acceptance doesn't mean that you're just sweeping everything under the rug and condoning less than fitting behaviour. Acceptance is the realization that you don't have to have an opinion on the feelings, thoughts, and actions of either your child or yourself (Sitting Still Like a Frog). So, open your heart and let everything happen as it may and work with it as mindfully as you can <3.
Tips for your Kids/Teens
Sometimes, our emotions run high and it's hard to know what to do with how we're feeling. Practice these strategies with your children to help them towards a more peaceful way of life:
Yes, kids can meditate too. It might not be for long but we can all pause, take a breath and look inward. This will help your child to not react too quickly to things, become less violent, sleep better, and know how to engage with others because they know how to calmly engage with themselves!
2. Press the Pause Button:
Your child is fuming and blowing smoke out of their ears. Encourage them to close their eyes and hit the pause button. The pause button is a mental picture in their brain of something they can press to take a moment, breathe and calm down. Start encouraging your child to do this even when they're not seeing red. Throughout the day there are times when we all need to hit the pause button! Once they've calmed down and done some belly breathing they can then express their feelings in a more calm manner.
Deescalation might not happen this quickly. Maybe they need more time alone to cool off, but still encourage them to hit that pause button and come back into the moment and out of the chatter of their mind.
3. Power of Positivity
Remembering what we're grateful for allows us to rewire our brain to focus on what's good in our life rather than all of the negative. You can teach yourself and your children how to adopt a practice of daily gratitude in many different ways:
-Start a Gratitude Jar: either draw a jar, or use a real one, and write down a couple things you're grateful for EVERYDAY. Doing this at night or first thing in the morning is most beneficial as it really sets the tone for our day, sleep or day to come! Watch your life and jar fill up with positivity!
-Talk: talk about what you're grateful for. Again, before bed or in the morning is best.
-Expressing Thanks: in your mind, say thank you when you wake up. Thank you for this life, that sleep, this roof over my head, etc. You have so much to be thankful for and the more we express our appreciation to ourselves and others, the more abundance and positive thinking we will have! Passing genuine compliments to others is something that lifts the soul for both yourself and others! Give praise where praise is due - there's no shame in it and you could make someone's day!
4. Tapping: tapping, or Emotional Freedom Technique, effectively resolves issues of stress, anxiety, fears, emotional disorders, etc. By tapping simple meridian points in our body, we activate our body's natural response system calm whatever it is we are going through. While we tap, we state simple and loving affirmations to help our brain's move out of fear, stress, etc. and into our peaceful selves. It's seriously amazing!
It's also amazing for healing wounds of the past that are keeping you in a rut.
Click here for the Tapping Solution for Kids how to resources/videos.
Resources for parents on how to meditate/mindfully engage with their kids:
Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel
Buddha at Bedtime by Dharmachari Nagaraja
How Children THRIVE by Mark Bertin
I hope you were able to find some helpful tidbits to put in your bag of tricks for mindful parenting and helping your little one lead a healthy and peaceful life.