Family

Children + Mindfulness

children and mindfulness

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Kids are like sponges: they absorb everything.” When uttered, this phrase is typically used as a warning to parents or their guests: “Whatever you do, don’t mess up...the kids are watching!” One errant bad word and you’ve got an adorable 3 year old walking around saying something she shouldn’t to your in-laws!

Something that is often forgotten about the “Kids are like sponges” sentiment, though, is that they also absorb good things. As an adult, kids look up to you and watch to see how you react and interact with the world around you. In a time where kids and adults alike seem unable to separate from their screens, practicing mindfulness in your life, and showing your children how to be mindful, can have immeasurable benefits.

I often see kids in my practice who are anxious or who struggle with other cognitive hurdles like ADHD. I have found that introducing kids to mindfulness exercises and games can help them immensely when they’re feeling overwhelmed or out of control. Below, I review some of the common advice I give children and their parents on how they can be more mindful every day.

Start With Yourself

Do you already practice mindfulness in your everyday life? If you do, that’s great: you’re one step closer to having a mindful child. Remember: Kids are like sponges, and they look to you for how to behave. So, if you don’t have your own mindfulness routine yet, start one. It can just be a few minutes a day, but getting into this habit will help you as you guide your child on their own path. There are tons of resources available online if you need a little boost to see how to start practicing mindfulness in your daily routine.

Mindfulness is FUN!

People frequently come up to me and say that they’d love to teach their kids to be more mindful, but they have trouble getting them to stay still for 30 seconds...it's something I’ve heard a million times and my answer is always the same: Make a game out of it! Kids love games, and games are a great way to introduce them to the concept of mindfulness.

Tip: Make sure the game is age-appropriate, and don’t worry about calling it a mindfulness game or not...it's just a game that incorporates mindfulness. Consider taking a walk around the neighborhood, and devote 30-60 seconds to a Listening Game. What do they hear? Birds? Cars? The wind through the trees? A simple exercise like this can plant the seed in your kids to be more aware of the world around them. 

Mindfulness is Calming

Right before bedtime is a great time to practice mindfulness with your kids. While they’re laying down, and after you’ve read them their story, guide them through an exercise that brings an awareness to their body. “Gently scrunch up your toes. Okay, now un-scrunch them. Feel the muscles in your legs. Feel them get heavier. Picture your belly and take a deep breath in. Now, breathe out.” There are lots of body-awareness scripts available online, too, to help you get the hang of this one. The quiet of the house and your soothing voice make this a great time of day to pass along mindfulness to your kids.

Remember: mindfulness doesn’t happen overnight, and it is not a “cure” for an unruly or rebellious child. However, mindfulness is a tool that you can equip your child with that can serve her well for years to come. Simply being aware of our surroundings and how we fit into our environment is a step in the right direction.

 

 

Got Mom guilt?

overcome your mom guilt

One of the most common themes I see in my practice these days is Mom guilt. What is Mom guilt you might ask? While there is no specific medical definition for mom guilt- what I see is more of an underlying feeling that “I’m not doing enough” or “I need to be doing more.” Along with these emotions are feelings of uneasiness and low sense of self in doing activities exclusively for one’s children, or not doing enough for them in everyday life. While it is very unlikely that either of those situations is actually happening, the feelings a Mom may have are very, very real.

Mom guilt comes in many forms and our modern day, social media-fixated society can help further this guilt. How so? Mom’s are constantly on the go and sometimes the only moments of downtime are spent scrolling through phones. A quick run through of Facebook and Instagram feeds can be helpful for Mom’s to feel connected- However, these same feeds also bombard Mom’s with an overwhelming feeling they must live up to these unrealistic standards. There are pictures of perfectly kempt children in matching spotless monogrammed outfits; a selfie of a forty-something mother of three with a bouncing blowout, impeccably trendy outfit and not a fine line in sight. These images are simply a peek into the perfectionism that is thrust upon our culture and the unachievable standards mothers often hold themselves to.

So… How can you deal? Below, I will offer 5 steps to help you cope with Mom Guilt.

Step one. Surround yourself with people who empower you

Seek out and be amongst those who support you, empower you and engage with you in a healthful way. Create a group of friends who will help you when you’re down, remind you of how amazing you are, and be there to lean on in times of distress.   Reach out to other mothers and girlfriends; foster those relationships. Communicate with your spouse and express what you need. Feeling connected to others, can help improve feelings toward oneself. 

Step two. Forgo comparing and develop compassion 

It’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to other mothers, particularly when they may seem as if they have it all together and are doing it all perfectly. Appearances are just that: appearances. Remember, what you see is not always what you get. Comparing yourself to another fuels insecurity and insecurity can breed guilt. Sometimes it is as simple as avoiding interactions with those who can cause you to feel insecure. It is important to develop the confidence and strength not to engage with people who may make you feel inadequate. Most importantly, have compassion for yourself.

Step three. Detach from technology

Studies have shown that technology affects us in many ways, from our sleep patterns, to physical ailments and emotional responses. Put the phone, the computer and the iPad down. Turn off the television. Be present in the moment without technology. Technology provides us with social media, which in turn can drive unwarranted comparisons of oneself to another as mentioned above. Take time to engage with your children, your friends, your partner and just be. Not only is this good for the mind and body, but also for the soul. Be mindful of what you are putting in front of your face and your brain.

Step four. Learn to take time for yourself

It is possible to learn how to take time for yourself! Start by taking five minutes each day and do something for you, whether it be meditating or something as simple as taking a hot shower with the door closed (a nearly impossible task for many moms!) Each week, add five minutes to the amount of time for you: 10 then 15, 20 and so on. Use this time to go for a walk, treat yourself to a manicure, go to the mall, take a yoga class, anything that makes you feel happy. As you go on with this routine, it will slowly help ease the guilt that comes with spending time with an on yourself.

Step five. Listen to your intuition 

A patient of mine recently told me a story of a girls’ trip she took with a group of friends after the birth of her second child. It was her first trip away from her children and after a day away, several hours of crying, anxiety and guilt she chose to leave the trip early and return home. Sometimes your guilt can get the best of you and sometimes it is there for a reason. Maybe you aren’t ready to leave your children just yet. Maybe you need some alone time for yourself and friends, but for a limited window of time. Maybe you just need to be with your children. We have intuition and instincts for a reason. When in doubt, listen to your gut. If your guilt is driving you to a place of complete emotional reaction, explore the reasons why and do what you feel is best for you.