Imagine your kid engrossed in something that keeps his attention for hours, expands his senses, nurtures his awareness, calms him down and strengthens his immune system. And it has nothing to do with electronics or medication.
Imagine that you are also calm and at ease and not having to control his every moment or correct him over and over.
Imagine that you are having fun and being healthy all at the same time.
Even good parents get overwhelmed and feel like they run out of ideas, or they just get so busy that implementing new ideas just seems like too much effort.
Imagine learning a few tools that you can use anytime to collect yourself and calm down anytime throughout the day. Even better, imagine your children learning those same tools and having fun doing it, creating a calmer, healthier and more pleasant environment in the home.
Imagine that you could start right away, creating good memories, less stress in your relationships and better family bonding.
Creating a lifestyle of mindful awareness and joyful living is easier than you might think. Learning the principles of connection, awareness, and detaching from drama (Peaceful Parenting: 10 Essential Principles, 2013) you can begin to create a calming energy within yourself, which has an overflow effect into your home. You know as well as I do that kids do what you do before they will ever do what you say.
It just doesn’t make any practical sense for them to do something that doesn’t seem to be working for you. So when you tell them to calm down while you are yelling, they consider that scenario and think, “Calming down doesn’t seem to be working for Mom, so I think I will yell louder since that’s what seems to be working for her!”
When you insist that they read because it’s so much fun, but you spend all your time on your phone, they are tempted to think, “Obviously Dad isn’t buying into the ‘fun reading’ thing, so I will just play on my tablet too. I want to be like Dad.”
Imitation is a sort of flattery. If that’s true and you yell at them for it, they end up getting confused. Kids are very straightforward and pragmatic. They do what makes sense to them. They want to be like you. So be what you want them to be. Most parents want their kids to be happy, peaceful, smart, self-secure, and good citizens. So how do we begin to create this type of child?
We become that kind of adult. And we spend time with that child doing activities that promote a happy, peaceful, self-secure lifestyle. We help them create the kind of awareness that teaches them things and makes them good citizens. Easy enough, right?
Learning to meditate and be mindful is really pretty easy and straightforward. It just takes a strong intention to be the kind of person you want to be, and implementing small do-able steps that lead you in the direction of your intention. A consistent practice of this actually changes the brain. Your brain will produce new hormones that help you feel good, so that you will want to do more healthy things.
Here are ways that you can teach your child mindfulness and self-control while you are learning at the same time:
- Learn to recognize negative feelings, acknowledge them and take a deep breath. Are you angry? Slow your blood pressure down, by inhaling deeply and releasing the breath slowly several times until your pounding heart feels calmer. Teach this to your child by stooping to their eye level, acknowledging his/her feeling (I know you are sad, hurt, angry, frustrated.) and beginning to breathe with them in and out, in and out…
- Teach them again to recognize the strong emotions and how important it is to release the adrenalin physically. Do jumping jacks, run outside around the house, take a walk, or use a re-bounder (small trampoline). When you do this with them, you are expressing (and teaching them) empathy.
- If they are holding onto negative emotions, sometimes it is difficult to talk it out. However, we communicate feelings in many ways, so you might try drawing, painting, writing or cutting and pasting a collage. It’s a good idea to have plenty or art supplies handy in a drawer or cabinet.
- You can even teach children, in age appropriate lengths of time, to begin to meditate. Perhaps starting with a minute listening to the birds, or listening to God tell them how much he loves them, or picturing themselves sitting on a beach or by a babbling brook. School age children can sit for 3-5 minutes focusing on their breath in and out. Sometimes I offer a small reward for sitting quietly until the chime goes off. Of course you won’t want to do this every day, but if you are starting out once a week, it could help motivate them to participate. Ultimately the time with you and the calm sense they achieve will be reward enough.
- Outdoor activities like lying on the grass and finding shapes in the clouds, or watching the stars, are all calming, mindful activities that enhance their appreciation of their surroundings and nurture awareness of what is going on around them and inside of them.
- Planting an herb garden and encouraging paying attention to the different smells and tastes are ways to enhance awareness and oneness with nature.
- Taking short hikes while looking for pine cones or different types of foliage are not only fun and exciting, but healthy. Being in the sunshine (increases vitamin D) fresh air (cleans the lungs and invites more oxygen into the cells) and dirt (microbes improve immune function and elevate mood) change the brain and improve overall wellness.
- Fishing and catching tadpoles can have a calming effect for kids and adults.
- Making up stories about the ants you observe busily creating their home, or birds that are feeding their young, stimulates imagination.
- Sharing the adventure of the day at the dinner table enhances family communication and feelings of self worth.
It’s helpful to have a pocketful of tools so that you can easily create a lifestyle that teaches kids to appreciate what you value, while at the same time, confirms how much you value them. It pays great emotional dividends.