Schools all over America are closed due to the Coronavirus. This means many parents have now added a second job full-time job to their plate as caretakers and teachers. Let’s face it, parenting is stressful on any given day. Now, many parents are experiencing a new level of overwhelm as they adjust to being home 24/7. Meditation is great for reducing stress, but the benefits don’t end there. We sat down with a few Simple Habit meditation experts who specialize in mindfulness for families and children to answer questions we’ve been getting from parents. Together, they shared tips to help you navigate tantrums, boredom, and ultimately, give you a new way to entertain and teach your kids while you shelter-in-place as a family.
What to do when my kid has a meltdown? How can I use mindfulness or meditation?
Cheryl Brause (CB): Temper tantrums are a good test of a parent’s patience. But yes, mindfulness can help! It’s easy to get swept up in your child’s emotional storm. Before you respond to your child, follow these seven steps to help you respond rather than react.
- Check in with yourself. Observe how you are feeling and note to yourself what you are feeling. “I am feeling frustrated/angry/impatient.”
- Take a big, deep inhale and a slow long exhale.
- Feel your feet on the ground.
- Say to yourself, “I am going to be patient.”
- Try to simply listen rather than trying to fix or solve the situation.
- Note to yourself that your child is frustrated and this behavior is age appropriate
- Offer yourself and your child some compassion and loving-kindness.
Samantha Kinkaid (SK): It’s important to know that meltdowns are the result of a feeling of overload, sensory or emotional. As most of us are in home isolation or quarantine currently, our younger children may not realize what’s going on. They are now faced with being at home, trying to learn new subjects online, missing their teachers and friends, unable to access playgrounds, parks, or regular hangout spots. They may be hearing news that is scary and confusing, in rooms where parents discuss concerns about the coronavirus, perhaps with an ill relative, or in a household with limited food and supplies. Clearly, these aren’t the only scenarios families are facing. What’s important to acknowledge is every single child is facing change right now.
First, talk with your children about the changes when they are calm. We can’t converse with someone in meltdown. Second, if a child is in a full blown meltdown, like a storm, it will pass. At the time, the best thing you can do is to assist your child in developing awareness and effective communication skills. How? Ask them questions and try to understand what sets them off. Loud noises? Too much TV? Confusing information?
One of the most widely accepted definitions of mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the present moment without judgement. When a parent can bring this level of curiosity and awareness to a child experiencing strong emotions, the child can feel seen and heard, and over time build emotional intelligence.
2. Any tips or mindful practices to do with your kids?
(CB) Belly Breathing – Have some fun with deep belly breathing. Lie down and place a pillow or stuffed animal on your belly. See if you can slowly move the pillow up and down or rock that stuffed animal by just taking a slow deep breath in and out. Do this for five minutes and feel the relaxing, calming effects of deep belly breathing on your entire nervous system.
(CB) The Mindful Hug – This is especially great when your child is upset. Simply ask for a hug. Then hold him or her tight and take several slow deep breaths. As you do, feel the relaxation response kick in without doing anything else as they begin to breathe with you.
(SK) Rose Thorn Bud – At dinner, discuss “Roses, Thorns, and Buds.” Go around the table and take turns. Each family member shares something good about the day (rose) , something challenging (thorn) , and something they are hopeful for (bud). Practice mindful listening and pay attention to what each person has to offer. It is amazing what you can learn and share!
(CB) What’s New? – This is a great game to play in the car, at home or on a walk. See who can notice something new that they have never noticed before. Then go around and each person can point out what they discovered. It’s fun way to sharpen your focus and notice what can discover. What you notice will often surprise you!
(CB) Mindful Listening – Sit quietly and still together with you kids inside the house or pick a spot outside. Close your eyes for 1 minute and “collect” sounds that you hear all around you. See what you notice. Listen for sounds coming from far away, from nearby and even from your own body. Then open your eyes and name all the sounds you heard.
(SK) Bedtime Phrases – During bedtime, recite “I Am Phrases” with your children. Repeat “I am calm, I am relaxed, I am peaceful, I am happy, I am grateful, I am healthy, I am blessed, I am loved.” At first, when my children were really young, I would say the phrase and they would repeat it. When they got older, they would add more phrases to the initial eight noted above. No matter their age, we always ended with I am loved.
(CB) Nighttime Body Scan – Great for Bedtime. Lying in bed, ask your child to close his or her eyes and slowly walk them through a “tour” of their body from the inside. Ask them to notice how each part of their body feels right now. Start with their toes and work your way up all the way to to the top of the head. At the end, ask them to imagine they are an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and simply melt into the bed. This can be a great way to unwind, relax the body and help them fall asleep. You can find an entire collection of meditations, body scans and bedtime stories on Simple Habit called Bedtime For Kids.
SK: Anything can be a mindfulness practice. Cooking together, playing games, gardening, art projects, dancing to music, sorting beads, creating sticker charts, walking the dog – these can all provide opportunities to practice mindfulness. As parents, if we practice mindfulness in our daily activities – to the best of our ability – we model that for our children. We bring ease, presence, stability, and fun to each day and each activity we may share.
Try this Mindful Fun For Kids collection – a series of meditations and bedtime stories designed for kids to use while they shelter-in-place.
3. What to do when you’re feeling impatient with your kids?
CB: A great mindfulness tool that always comes in handy when you are feeling triggered is to use the Mindful Pause to STOP before you respond. Here’s how:
- S – When you feel triggered, take a moment to stop before you respond
- T – Take a deep breath or take a moment to feel your feet on the floor
- O – Observe what you are feeling (name it to tame it), feel it in your body, take another deep breath
- P – Proceed in a way that works best for you and those around you (take a walk, excuse yourself, note that it is best to talk about it later)
SK: Impatient means we would like something to happen more quickly. Impatience can lead to frustration if we don’t catch it. In moments like these, it’s important to stay calm. Understand why you feel the need to hurry, as well as why your child may be taking longer than you would like. Take a breathe, try to see the situation from your kid’s point of view, practice patience – especially with yourself, and remember these are extraordinary times right now. Self-care is vital.
Download Simple Habit and enjoy with your family today.
About Cheryl Brause
Cheryl, the founder of 2bpresent, is a meditation teacher, speaker, writer and busy mom of three teenagers. As a former investment banker on Wall Street andCheryl, the founder of 2bpresent, is a meditation teacher, speaker, writer and busy mom of three teenagers. As a former investment banker on Wall Street and corporate litigator, she was a type A, perfectionist and constant seeker of the next best thing until she learned the life-changing practice of meditation. Through her personal meditation practice, Cheryl learned to slow down, be more present and engage fully in her life right now with greater joy each day. Her journey into meditation was so life-changing that she began to dive deeply into her personal practice and was fortunate to study with some of the leaders in the field and train as a meditation teacher. Cheryl now works with private clients and in schools, businesses, retreat centers and conferences teaching mindfulness, meditation and mindful parenting. Cheryl leads workshops, speaks at conferences, consults on panels and presents to many local, statewide and national audiences. Visit www.2bpresent.com and www.pausetobepresent.com to learn more.
About Samantha Kinkaid
Samantha Kinkaid, Doctoral candidate, MA, is a consultant and psychologist.
An authority on trauma-healing and resilience, Samantha speaks and leads trainings internationally, while maintaining a successful private practice is in Southern California. Clients find their way back to living authentically, skillfully, intentionally.
Samantha has designed and implemented successful programs for vulnerable and traumatized populations in the US and Asia. Additionally, she advises NGOs, CBOs, and a range of organizations who support vulnerable populations.