4 Mindfulness Strategies to Try at Home
At a recent parent education night at a preschool, I spoke at length about mindfulness. Kids today, even the little ones, are on the treadmill. They’re running from activity to activity and switching gears quickly. They’re interrupted from their play frequently and expected to simply move on. They’re learning to survive in a state of stress, and that can result in some major consequences.
One antidote to this is to take the time to practice mindfulness strategies at home. Truthfully, these strategies are good for the whole family.
When we all slow down and practice being present, the pull to be everywhere and do everything fades. This helps us find a healthier pace and decrease our overall stress levels.
Not surprisingly, one parent stayed back to chat. She feels like practicing mindfulness is one more thing to add to the lengthy daily to-do list. I get that. When you’re running on empty, it does feel like an added pressure. Yet when you make room for daily mindfulness practice with your family, you find that you examine the importance of that to-do list from a much different perspective.
Mindfulness teaches kids to focus on the here and now, and let go of past and future worries and upsets. There are many benefits to mindfulness for kids, including:
- Improved concentration
- Stress reduction
- Increased empathy
- Improved moods
- Better sleep
- Increased compassion
- Better self-awareness
- Decreased anxiety
- Better overall wellness
- Coping skills
Incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle doesn’t have to feel like a full-time job. Try one activity a day and see how your kids (and you!) react. You just might find that these simple strategies restore a feeling of calm in your home right when you need it.
Stuffed animal breathing
Deep breathing is an essential skill for all people, but a difficult one for little kids to master. Bringing along a favorite stuffed animal helps kids learn to regulate their breathing while caring for their cuddly friends. Note: You can just do “belly breathing” by paying attention to how your body moves, but it’s more fun with a friend.
Ask your child to lie down on the floor and place the stuffed animal on his belly. Ask your child to inhale slowly while you count to four, hold for another count of four, and exhale for the final count of four. Ask your child to think about how his stuffed animal moves when he breathes, and to pay attention to how his body feels. Tell your child picture any thoughts, worries, or stressors that pop into his head as balloons that float away when he exhales. Repeat three times.
So often we move so fast that we forget to slow down and notice things. Young children are actually great noticers. This activity reminds them to stop, think, and appreciate small objects.
Fill a brown bag with a few different objects. Examples might include a smooth stone, a squishy ball, a soft toy, and a small branch. Ask your child to close her eyes and pull out one object. With her eyes closed, your child should attempt to use her senses of touch and smell to describe the item. When she opens her eyes, she can use sight to fill in any missed details.
Scent can be a powerful tool. It can even help you relax! Help your child explore the power of scent by creating a tray of a variety of scents. You might include an apple slice, an orange peel, a freshly picked flower, a vanilla bean, and a cinnamon stick. Ask your child to take the time to appreciate the scent of each item one at a time, and try to think of a memory tied to each scent. This helps kids focus, relax, and recall.
There’s an app for that
I can’t say enough positive things about the Stop, Breathe, & Think Kids: Focus, Calm, & Sleep app. Not only does this app offer a wide variety of mindfulness “missions” to address the current mood of your child, it helps your child explore feelings and consider how mindfulness can help improve emotions. While I generally recommend disconnecting as much as humanly possible when in the presence of your children, this app will help the whole family feel calm and focused.
Note: While the recommended age range is 6-8, I’m using this will kids up to age 11 and having great results. Give it a try!