Seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet – About Children
Being Mindful with Children
The pressure to be the perfect parent, teacher or caregiver can feel daunting. You organize to be on top of drop off and pick up, homework, conferences, fundraisers, activities, and sports.…plus working to pay bills, managing housework, family meals, and outings… the list never seems to end.
They used to tell you the key to balancing work and family life is an organized system. Check. You have that down (pretty much).
Now they are talking about mindfulness for improved learning, better parenting, career advancement, better health and quality of life.
Holy cow. (No pun intended). Now I have to learn Eastern meditation just to be a good parent or teacher?
Actually, mindfulness practice is more accessible than you might imagine. Though rooted in Eastern philosophy, mindfulness is a practice that can be easy to absorb into your daily life.
What is Mindfulness, Exactly?
The core concepts of mindfulness in daily life are surprisingly simple derivations of the high moral and personal standards practiced by Himalayan monks for thousands of years.
For the non-monk, achieving mindfulness boils down to everyday life practices that
- Build awareness of the physical responses to triggers
- Overcome physical responses through breath work
- Replace reactions with curious, nonjudgmental consideration of triggers
- Apply compassion to all circumstances and people, including self-compassion and self-love
Scientific evidence confirms that these practices reduce stress levels, improve cognitive functioning, help build immune system strength, and help reduce conflicts. Mindfulness practices are now being used to successfully remediate intransigent social and personal problems, such as conflict resolution, chronic anxiety and depression, PTSD, and addiction.
I get that Mindfulness is powerful. How can I be more mindful with children?
Bringing mindfulness into parenting, teaching and otherwise dealing with children is something that benefits you and the children in your life.
Compassion is your starting point. Children today have been born into a world vastly different from the world you knew as a child. They face a future most adults cannot even imagine. Yet they are children, still wondering and in need of affectionate guidance that nurtures their innate abilities and gifts.
All compassion starts with self-love and self-inquiry. Meditation will help uncover where you lost trust in your gifts, where compassion for the child was broken and will provide an opportunity to heal through self-love.
Mindfulness practices with children can be as simple as co-breathing – a practice through which you can reduce stressful situations by matching your breathing pattern to a child exhibiting challenging behavior. Start with matching the child’s breathing pattern, then consciously regulate your own breathing. You will see the child begin to shift his or her own energy then to match your own.
Another mindfulness practice effective with children is a nonjudgmental presence. Children, like anyone else in a time of stress or crisis, need the compassionate presence of someone who cares, in order to transition from flight-or-fight reaction to open, trustful communication. Nonjudgmental presence is a quality built upon your practice of self-compassion, extending to compassion for others, as well as your own life experience,
Becoming adept with mindfulness practices is a goal that can Improve your relationships with children and even adults, through a transformed, crystal clear, compassionate understanding of their life stories – starting with your own!