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Mindfulness

5 Practical Ways to Raise Mindful Kids

Incorporating these small habits into your life is easier than you might think.

Key points

  • Mindfulness involves a quality of presence in our daily lives and living with curiosity and intention.
  • The main purpose of mindfulness is to train the mind to bring full attention to the present moment.
  • Now more than ever, our children need our examples of how to inhabit the world with awareness.
Source: Chris Prange-Morgan
Living with awareness and intention is the essence of mindful parenting.
Source: Chris Prange-Morgan

When talking about the word mindfulness, most of us think about sitting on a cushion with our eyes closed, focusing on our breathing, or trying to achieve some kind of inner calm. While there are many mindfulness practices such as these that can be helpful, the main goal of being “mindful” is to train the mind to bring full attention to what’s happening and what we’re doing[1], without obsessing about the past or the future. It involves a quality of presence that encompasses our day-to-day lives, amidst an often anxiety-producing world where expectations and self-judgment can often feel overwhelming.

We hear about this concept of mindfulness now more than ever, at a time when we are bombarded with images and distractions from our devices that we must manage with awareness about how our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors are impacted. At the same time, we have choices about how we go about our lives, what we value, and how we influence the values of our children.

Incorporating mindfulness habits into parenting is easier than you might think. Here are five practical suggestions for raising mindful kids.

1. Set a good example by living in the present, with curiosity

I’ve always been a goal-setter and a planner, with sometimes grand and lofty expectations. As the family social planner, I’ve typically been the person to arrange for how we spend our time, which has often included vacations to epic places and exciting destinations.

I’ve also recently published a book, and have spent a good amount of time traveling and presenting on topics that are important to me. While these goals and planned experiences have been meaningful and necessary, I realize that there are significant things that happen in my daily life that are just as meaningful—right under my nose.

The bright smile of pride and satisfaction on my son’s face as he showed us the new computer he built. My daughter’s recent visit home from college—sharing all the things she is learning about how students navigate their university experience. Conversations with our aging family members, recalling noteworthy memories to share with our kids.

It’s easy to miss profound yet simple happenings when we’re preoccupied with the past. It also can be hard to slow down and cherish the circumstances of daily living when we are so caught up in the next big thing.

Despite all the epic-ness that life can bring, it’s important to know that the present moment is truly where the sweet spot is. Striving to make the present moment the most sacred part of your family’s life is the best gift you can give them.

2. Express gratitude in your relationships

Thanksgiving is typically the time of year when we bring awareness to the gratitude we have for the people and circumstances of our lives, but it doesn’t need to stay here. The experience of gratitude we have for one another can become a practice.

A simple expression of gratitude like, “I really appreciate how kind you are to our pets,” when you see it, or “I love the way your smile lights up the room” can go a long way. So can sentiments like, “I love seeing you happy. It makes my heart sing.”

Similarly, expressing appreciation to your spouse for the little things they do helps your children feel safe and secure. Finding moments of appreciation throughout the day add up to the feeling of an overall grateful life.

3. Savor experiences, not material things

With the holidays around the corner, extended Black Friday deals inundating our newsfeeds, and the pressure to shop for gifts for loved ones mounting toward the end of the year, it’s important to take stock in the things we value. It’s also an important time to consider how our emotional and financial resources are spent.

Consider having a family conversation about the things that matter to all of you. Talk openly about the people in your lives who are important, the fleetingness of time, and the value of spending time together.

Working in health care as an interfaith hospital chaplain brought the awareness of life’s transiency into my family starting in 2016, as I began listening to stories of folks on their deathbeds while surrounded by their loved ones. The gift of time is something that is easy to take for granted until it’s too late.

4. Aim for life balance and healthy living

It’s true that work, school, and other obligations often have us motivating on autopilot. It’s not always easy to practice self-care in optimal ways that are healthy for the mind, body and spirit, but we can try tuning into ourselves and our surroundings to gauge our well-being. Ask yourself, Am I feeling well-rested? Are there areas where I’m giving too much and not caring for my own needs? Do I have enough energy for my family, that I’m not responding out of resentment or a feeling of being short-tempered?

It's also true that our kids learn more from what we do than by what we try to teach them. As parents, if we model that living a healthy lifestyle is important to us, it’s likely that our kids will grow up with the same habits. Getting exercise. Eating well. Connecting with others and the outdoors. It’s all about awareness—alignment of mind, body and spirit.

5. Set aside your phone—capture moments if you must, but re-engage with the world around you

Source: Chris Prange-Morgan
We can begin to realize the importance of capturing moments and appreciating them by giving our fullest attention to our loved ones, including our children.
Source: Chris Prange-Morgan

I know this is a catch-22. Our phones and devices can be handy tools for snapping photos, sharing them to social media, and grabbing the newest information in real time. But we also know that the creators of these devices are fully aware that one click leads to another, and then another. If we are preoccupied with our devices to the detriment of the important people in our midst, precious moments are likely to be missed.

Living with awareness and intention is the essence of mindful parenting. There’s no perfection here, just curiosity. If we can bring a non-judgmental curiosity into our relationships with our children, give them our true, authentic attention, and tend to our own well-being, our kids are likely to feel empowered, valued, and grounded in what matters most. And these things are invaluable.

References

[1] What is Mindfulness? Are you supposed to clear your mind, or focus on one thing? Here's the Mindful definition of Mindfulness. Mindful.org. July 2020. https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/

What is Mindfulness? The Greater Good Institute. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition

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