Learn how to create a mindful household for your child for parenting in unprecedented times.
Is mindfulness possible in the chaos? It’s the question that every parent asks. Life comes at us fast when we’re helping our kids navigate the stress of school, socializing, family dynamics and the world at large while juggling our own professional and personal battles daily. Our ideal of living in a calm, emotionally connected house is often sacrificed to the realities of just how much we have on our plates.
There’s a secret that so many parents miss. Mindfulness happens best in small bites. The goal isn’t to create a house that’s so serene it feels like you’re walking into a Buddhist monastery. True mindfulness comes from helping your child develop a toolkit for self-regulation. What’s more, you can start doing small things today to help your whole family adopt a better way of being. Take a look at practical mindfulness tips for parenting in unprecedented times.
Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First
You’ve probably heard the adage that you need to tend to your emotional wellness before you can help others for the same reason you need to put on your own oxygen mask on an airplane before helping another person get into theirs. This is even true when it comes to spreading mindfulness to your children. Practicing mindfulness independently before introducing it as an idea to the rest of your family can be a great way to lead by example. It’s also a gift that you deserve! Here’s a look at some easy mindfulness practices for busy parents:
- Call out your own multitasking habit! Focus on one task at a time when you’re doing chores around the house.
- Savor every red light as a “stillness moment.” This is sometimes the only downtime parents get. Maximize it by making a commitment to being perfectly still at stoplights instead of breathlessly waiting for the light to turn.
- Take breathing breaks throughout the day. Treat yourself to an attractive smartwatch to help you set reminders.
- Give yourself 10 minutes each day to jot down every bad or negative thought you’ve been harboring that day. Make a promise that you will leave the worries in the journal without going back to them in your mind once they are written down.
There’s also one very important mindfulness technique that can truly change the “temperature” of your home life more than just about anything else. Listen to your child with complete attention when they talk to you throughout the day. Yes, it sounds simple enough. However, the reality is that you’re juggling a million different thoughts, deadlines and duties on any given day.
It’s so easy to listen without really “listening” when your child speaks to you. While you may be listening and responding, there is a sense of disconnection that your child feels when you don’t stop what you’re doing to really listen. Make a pledge to “stop in your tracks” to make eye contact, use nonverbal cues and follow active-listening practices like nodding along when your child talks to you. You can even consider getting down to eye level with a younger child.
Helping Your Kids to Be More Mindful
You’ve committed to doing your own work toward becoming more mindful. It’s now time to spread mindfulness to your child. Here are some simple ways to give your child the tools to practice mindfulness in an era of anxiety and uncertainty:
- Encourage your child to start a gratitude journal. Taking 10 minutes out of the day to focus on interior thoughts is mindful enough on its own. However, the added benefit of focusing on gratitude can be extremely important when so many “scary” things are going on in the world.
- Show your child the stand-like-a-tree life hack. This is one of those 30-second mindfulness hacks that can help your child regulate emotions during sticky situations at school. The trick is simply to stand still like a tree using a calming visualization of nature to induce grounded, centered thoughts. The benefit of using this over other meditation poses is that your child can do it without anybody noticing.
- Create a mindfulness garden using just a window sill. Consider putting some small potted plants with different textures on a window sill. When your child feels overwhelmed, they can touch the different leaves to experience different textures.
- Set intentions every morning. Reserving a few quiet moments to set intentions for the day is vital for conscious, present living. Encourage your child to write down goals like being kind to someone, taking time to admire nature or taking a small step in a long-term goal.
Remember to let your child lead when it comes to what they feel comfortable doing. Mindfulness time should never be viewed as a “punishment.” In fact, it should be presented as a gift that you are sharing with your child to help them find the beauty in life.
Mindfulness Starts at Home
The mindfulness practices you teach your child at home can follow them to school, sports, jobs and social interactions. It only takes a few minutes each day to create a lifetime of mindfulness. Integrating mindfulness into the flow of your household will make your child intuitively reach for grounding, centering mindfulness practices when they rub against life’s stressors.
- Mindfulness as a Useful Part of Your Child’s Mental-Health Toolkit, Parenting Advice, Mental Health
- Adolescent Mental Health Tips
- A Healthy Mental Space
Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.