Teach your child the habit of pausing to take a deep full belly breath. You can do this any time of the day, as many times as you want, but the best way to turn it into a habit is to anchor the action to another part of your day. For example you could choose to pause and breathe just before you eat a meal, or before you read a bedtime story. One of my favorite times to do it is just before we leave the house. In our house getting ready to go anywhere with my 6 year old is always a mad rush but taking a few seconds to pause and breathe together before we leave is like pressing a reset button, it gives us the chance to leave that hectic energy behind. This is how you pause and breathe – put one hand on your stomach, breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose, focus on the feeling of your belly rising with the breath. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds and breathe out deeply and slowly through your mouth. You can emphasize the actions and sounds so that your child can copy you. Children learn by watching and following your lead as the parent, as your child gets older you can ask them to join you in doing it together.
Try to sit together as a family for at least one meal a day, leave all the devices away from the table and just be present. Talk and listen – it sounds so simple but it’s so easy to overlook when we are busy and juggling so many things at once. You can’t teach a child to be mindful and live in the present unless you set the example and mealtimes are the perfect time to do this.
Journaling is known to aid mindfulness, but long before we can write fluidly we can draw. All children can draw. You can make the exercise more mindful by giving them some drawing prompts for example, if they are drawing themselves, you could ask them if they can draw how they are feeling or if they are drawing a tree, ask them to think about all the different types of green they can see on that tree. Don’t overdo the prompting; you don’t want to interrupt their natural thought process. Drawing can help sharpen your child’s focus.
You can teach your child to bring their attention and focus inwards with a body scan. You can start this quite simply when your child is young. At night before bedtime you can get your child to lie down and take a deep breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth, then ask them to wiggle their toes and relax them saying goodnight toes, then gently shake out their legs and relax them saying goodnight legs, doing this all the way up the body until you get to the top of their head. As your child gets older you can replace the shaking and saying good night, instead, getting them to imagine a beam of light working its way from the tips of their toes all the way to the top of their head (like a really slow photocopier) and just ask them to think about each part of their body and how it feels as the light hits it. A body scan is a great tool for meditation, teaching it early is like introducing the foundations for meditation.
I’m going to end with this last piece of advice because I think it’s the most important. Mindfulness is about living in the present, not worrying about the past or the future. It is about just being in the moment. Children are born mindful; they learn how to not be mindful from us. We, as stressed-out parents can actually learn more from them about being mindful than we could ever teach them. If your child asks you to climb a tree with them or play Lego, take the time to do it AND be fully present, don’t check your messages, think about the email you have to write or mentally create the weekly shopping list in your head. Just be and in doing so you give them permission to do the same.
Article written by:
Mindful Breastfeeding and Holistic Baby Sleep Coach