By Anna Marie Trotman
Can We “Medicate” Today?
When my niece was about four we would play the meditation “game.” We would sit cross-legged and focus on breathing for a few minutes. In warmer weather, we would go outside and blow bubbles, then mindfully watch them drift off until they popped. Sometimes we put our troubles inside the bubbles and let them go. We would close our eyes and listen to prerecorded sounds. Sometimes we would focus on a rock or a shell. We would hold the object and silently notice how it felt, smooth or rough, cold or warm. We observed patterns and colors and we would always bring ourselves back to our breath. Sophie loved her quiet time. One day she came running up the steps, all out of breath and said, “can we medicate today?” Little did she realize that mindfulness is a natural medication.
This Stupid Coronavirus
These are strange and worrying times for children. While we need to look after ourselves and others, we also need to consider how all this is affecting our kids, and how we can help them through it.
My friend’s grandson will be turning eleven next week; he can’t have a birthday party or be with his friends because of “this stupid coronavirus.” School is closed for the rest of the year, no hockey practice, no hanging out with his buddies. He asked if his friends could drive by and honk their horns on his birthday, a simple request that will satisfy him for the moment.
We don’t know how COVID-19 may be contributing to an increased anxiety level in our children. While we are supporting them with their school work, let’s talk about other ways we can be with them during these times and also keep an eye out for when they might need more help. If their anxiety is interfering with typical activities or family life, it could be time to talk to your pediatrician or psychologist.
How to Begin
You may be thinking; “my kids won’t sit still for a minute, how I could ever get them to be quiet and practice mindfulness?” It may be a challenge at first, but your kids will come to enjoy the quiet time (and so will you). Mindfulness is about experiencing what is happening in the moment. Kids really get this, but they need a little guidance. Adults need a little more practice since we often think about what has gone on in the past or we’re worried about the future. Right now is right now. To support you in bringing mindfulness to your family, I recommend you check out Annaka Harris who has developed exercises specifically for children. She has written blogs, created tapes and has a cute little video to bring awareness to being in the moment. https://annakaharris.com/mindfulness-for-children/.
Mindfulness Can Help Kids to Flourish in this Uncertain Time.
Most of the research on mindfulness for children has been conducted in the school setting. Recent studies have shown school mindfulness programs to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety among secondary-school children for up to six months after the program. Such programs can also help students focus during exams, as well as reducing stress and boosting happiness among high school students. Now is a good time for you and your children to begin a lifetime journey that will help you through the challenges that you will face during the course of your lives. Mindfulness is a Super Power! Here are eight mindfulness apps for children. https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/assistive-technology/finding-an-assistive-technology/8-meditation-apps-for-kids
Benefits the Whole Family
To begin to create a more mindful family and incorporate mindfulness into your children’s lives, start with a daily mindfulness practice accompanied by a short breathing practice. Mix it up so it doesn’t become boring. Family dinners can also become mindful by not allowing phones or tablets at the table and having a moment of gratitude for the food. Even simple things like positive affirmations and encouraging your children to think before they speak can foster an environment of calmness, presence and compassion.
Check out this fun two minute beginner’s guide to meditation, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-kMJBWk9E0&feature=youtu.be