As promised, Dr. Hilary Mead, a child clinical psychologist in Outpatient Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Seattle Children’s, is back to share her tips on using and teaching mindfulness to our kids. If you missed her first podcast on mindfulness, listen to get a better understanding of what it means to be mindful. And how easy it may be to build it into your everyday life.
Mindfulness is about being in the moment you’re in, aware, accepting what’s unfolding and being non-judgmental of yourself and your relationships. Using mindfulness with children and teens can help them cope with pain-related conditions or emotional, behavioral or mental conditions. This includes depression, panic disorders or trauma. Children can use mindfulness to boost mood, improve coping and gain a sense of control over their experiences with mental challenges.
With that said, here are Dr. Mead’s tips for teaching and incorporating mindfulness into your entire family’s life:
1. Make It Fun
- Find something children enjoy – it can be full participation in the moment like dance parties, playing board games as a family or playfully wrestling for 10 minutes. Shedding distractions and focusing on just what you’re doing (the sounds, the smells, the sights you take in) can be mindfulness at play. This counts.
- Not new, but consider doing yoga with your children. Practicing together may be a way to learn mindfulness and explore it together.
- Even playing “I Spy” (I spy with my little eye…) can be mindful because your child will be encouraged to focus on the current environment intently. This can help them if they are worried/distracted by something and can anchor them into the present moment.
2. Make It Practical
- NO ‘multitasking:” Mindfulness is actively and intentionally engaging in just one thing or one activity – “one mindfulness.” Contrary to what many people believe, we are more efficient when we do one thing at a time. Research shows that you’ll be more careful and therefore spend less time (re)doing the one task than when you multi-task.
- Being practical can be as easy as putting away cell phones (both children and parents) at dinner. I love Common Sense’s Device Free Dinner campaign for this reason. Use this precious family time to do just that; focus on those you’re eating with. Focus on what you’re eating. Focus on what you’re talking about (or not talking about if it’s one of those nights).
3. Make it Routine
- Gratitude is a good way to make mindfulness a routine – when you’re being grateful, you’re thinking and creating a positive moment.
- Consider a “gratitude mindfulness” which is sharing what they are thankful for at dinner. This is a lot like BPOD (Best Part of the Day). You can also do this before bed or any other time during the day. Maybe it’s not even every day, but make it happen regularly.
- Keep it brief if need be. I personally have a journal where I can write one sentence a day (not every day, but often) and it’s for five years (similar to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal).
4. Make It Yours
- Your practice of mindfulness is likely most powerful form of teaching. Find something that you like to do as a parent and tell your children.
- The answer is usually because it’s effective for you!
- Sometimes teens tell their parents: Why should I practice these skills if you aren’t?
- Parents likewise ask when challenged: Why should I be practicing these skills if my child or teen isn’t?
5. Make It About This Moment
- You don’t have to wait until you are in perfect silence sitting on a pillow meditating to practice being mindful. You can be mindful to your life with your children in any moment by fully participating, or fully riveting yourself to this moment. Even in a meeting at work.
- Fully listening to your child’s story about school, fully participating in story time, ignoring that tantrum, or chewing your dinner slowly — all are serious mindfulness.
- Every moment is an opportunity to be mindful. As is the next one. And this one right now.
5 Days of Mindfulness – Dr. Mead will be back next week to lead five days mindfulness where she will share seven different guided imagery/meditations for you and your children throughout the week. You can view them here on the blog and/or listen to the podcasts.
- Seattle Mama Doc blog – Mindfulness for Children and Teens
- MindfulnessForTeens.com – Website catered to adolescents and teens
- HealthJourneys.com – Information on guided imagery
- Apps to try (not all are free) – Headspace, Insight Timer, ZenFriend or The L.A.U.G.H. App (tested by Seattle Children’s Research Institute and specifically created for mindfulness for children)
- Recommended reading – Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn