It’s Monday morning. 7:45am. Breakfast dishes scattered in the sink. Dog barking (for no real reason at all). We are hustling to get out the door to catch the bus for school. God forbid we have to wait in the drop-off line which is seemingly never ending. I’ve got one daughter that is crying because her socks feel “weird” and she can’t find anything that “feels good”. The other is nervous about her math test happening that day and she can’t focus on anything else. I’m about to lose my mind because I’m just trying to get us out the door and no one is really moving. Sound familiar to anyone?
In a moment like this, the three of us are all trapped in our own heads and in our emotions. Communication between us would be a solid D+ or C- at best. As a life coach myself, I know there is a way to improve all of this, our routines, our overall emotional state, our communication. And there is. Through my work, my research and my own parenting, there is a way.
What is mindfulness?
It’s never too early to start a mindfulness practice with our kids. What is a mindfulness practice anyways! Don’t worry, I got you. Being mindful really just means being aware of your thoughts & emotions and how they could be affecting you mentally and physically.
There are some super helpful techniques & skills we’ve use to get good at this. And when now that we’ve been practicing this for a while, the girls are able to really tune into where they are at in any given moment. So, instead of storming away when she’s frustrated, my eight-year-old can tell me that she’s angry, and why. And then we can tackle it together.
Benefits of mindfulness
Helping them to develop a strong sense of self, emotional awareness and coping techniques are skills that will truly last their entire lifetime. The outcomes of these mindful practices with both my 11 and 8-year-old girls have benefited us all. I see that they have increased confidence in themselves and in our relationship overall.
There is definitely an increase in our collective empathy and understanding of each other. And because we are more mindful, we are able to communicate so much better with each other. That changes everything.
Things to do to increase mindfulness
Here are some of the things we do to increase mindfulness in our daily lives.
- Learn their feelings and how to talk about them. This is the first step and one of the most important. Can we name them? I encourage them to get specific on the feeling. Is it anger frustrated, fear, nervousness, annoyance, sadness, overwhelmed? Where do you feel it in your body? Do we know what caused us to feel them? If I know their triggers, I can help them through it. And better yet, teach them to help themselves as well.
- Staying present. This really helps kids from spiraling in their own emotions. And not just kids, all human beings. When they feel that anger creeping in, they can spot that and do some deep breathing. (See why it’s important to understand how and where emotions manifest in our body?) Five seconds in through the nose, hold for five, out the mouth for five seconds. Other times, they may need to take a few moments away to themselves. This isn’t avoidance, it’s coping and self-soothing and that’s a good thing. Just encourage them to come back to you. Another thing we do is stop whatever is going on, and “find three things you can see, hear, smell, touch”. This is a quick distraction from spiraling and brings them into the very present moment. These tactics aren’t meant to eliminate tough feelings. On the contrary. It’s important to allow kids to feel and express their feelings. It’s a chance to separate from it, communicate it and learn what it’s trying to show them.
- Affirmations. Okay I know affirmations can feel weird at first, but I promise after a while they won’t, and they will be an important tool in your and your kiddo’s toolbox. We all have fake stories running through our head. “I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough” “I’m not smart enough” “I’m not pretty” – all of which are lies and can dismantle self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. So, each day we remind ourselves of who we really are. “I am smart! I am brave! I am beautiful! I can do hard things!” Thank you Glennon Doyle for that last one.
- Good parenting messages. Coming out of integrative body psychotherapy, there are a set of 15 messages kids are supposed to get from their parents in early childhood and seven in adolescence or early adulthood. The whole list and an explanation can be found here. I have found different ways to incorporate these into my parenting with both my words actions and emotions. But I wanted to find a way to really dial this up a notch. So, at bedtime, when I’m tucking them in, it’s quiet and I have their attention I started saying “You are so loved, and you are safe” with an extra smooch on the forehead. Now at first, I got no reaction. I didn’t think it was resonating, so I stopped saying it. The first night I stopped my 11-year-old asked “Mom – can you say that you are safe and loved thing? Because it relaxes me and helps me sleep better.” BOOM! It did work. It helped calm the any stress, anxiety or chaos left over from the day. Helped them to stay mindful!
So, if you are looking for a little more peace, calm, empathy or understanding – give any or all of these a shot. You’ve got nothing to lose.
For real, it takes time for these practices to become habit and to take effect. Very honestly, we still have our hard moments, our tough days and lost tempers. We are far from perfect. Perfect is never ever the goal anyways, progress is. But, because of these mindfulness practices, everyone’s emotional state has leveled up. Fewer tantrums, more laughs. More understanding. That’s all a win in my book.