They can be some of the most frustrating and embarrassing child behaviors—temper tantrums, lashing out at others, impatience, and short attention spans. So what can you do about them? Research has found that having a sense of mindfulness, or the ability to be present and think before reacting, can provide children with the skills they need to better understand their feelings, to pay more attention and to make wiser decisions. Mindfulness also means paying attention to the moment without judgment and intentionally pausing before reacting. Mindfulness is a wonderful way to help children manage their emotions, reduce their stress, improve their academics, and even develop greater empathy. The hidden benefit of practicing mindfulness with your family is that as parents you get to reap the benefits too. Here are eight easy ways to get started:
1. Take on a Family Mindfulness Challenge: When you model the mindfulness you want to see in your children, they understand it on a whole new level. So, give it a try. You can sit on a chair or floor with your back straight but not tense. Close your eyes and use your other senses, like listening. A simple minute of mindful breathing is one great way to start. There are also free apps and websites available to help guide your practice, which can be great for beginners.
2. Choose a “Mindfulness Corner”: It could be in a bedroom or main area. Make it special and uncluttered. You can have everyone in your family put a personal symbol, like a pillow, photo or blanket, in the middle of the room so it becomes like a “zone of peace” that is there at any time. Designating a physical location literally “holds the space” for mindfulness to become a regular family habit, much like sitting down together to eat a meal.
3. Set a Time: Just like athletes schedule practice sessions to improve their skills, having a designated mindfulness time helps make it a go-to habit. Before bed is a wonderful time, as the mindfulness practice relaxes everyone into a more peaceful state. Some families use a special chime to take turns bringing everyone together. As your family gets used to practicing mindfulness, the special space in your home can serve as a good place to go when anyone in the family needs to take a break from anger, or frustration. If you practice moments of calm, it makes going to that space in moments of stress easier.
4. Have Mindful Mornings: Getting out the door for school is stressful. Consider ways to de-stress, like waking up a little earlier for some quiet time, or encouraging your children to help (as they can) to pack their lunches the night before. Dr. Christine Carter of Greater Good Science Center prepares for the morning rush by placing sticky notes on her fridge. They are reminders to NOTICE emotions, NAME the emotion, ACCEPT what is going on, and BREATHE (pausing to take a few deep breaths) before jumping into action.