Mindfulness with Children: progress report

progress report collageA little update about what else I’ve found helpful in trying to practice mindfulness with my kids around (and even without them around!). I don’t think it’s a surprise that mindfulness and my exploration of of it is not just for me, but because I want to model it for my children. And after only a few weeks of actively attempting being mindful, I’m starting to reap some lovely inner peace.

It’s an age (theirs) and role (ours) where it’s so easy to just try to get through the day. But surely that’s not the way we want to live, right? So in this journey to mindfulness, these are some more steps I’m taking.

Not accepting negative, distracting thoughts (for myself). Just not accepting them, not buying into them. Nope, you’re not welcome in this moment, negative intrusion, so leave us alone for now.

If they come, y’know the *I’m this and that and how terrible and what about this or that thing I have to worry about? What about that, huh?!* and before I know it I realise in the background has been a little, “mummy? mummy? mummy? mummy…?” that I haven’t been able to hear above my own trivial internal bullshit.

It’s hard to focus entirely on being when playing a child’s game, at least I find it so, because I’m used to using my mind for a lot of stuff, to being busy busy busy, so very busy, that letting go of back then and future then and just being now takes work. But what makes it a thousand times harder work is even for a moment accepting the challenge of also mulling over a few anxieties at the same time. So I’m accepting the other challenge, of banishing them from my moments.

Trying to live spaciously.

I have a friend who used to tell me about the importance (to her) of having a big life. A big life with open arms and an embracing attitude. At the time I thought she just meant she wanted more hobbies. But now I understand a little more.

When we live in the blah blah blah internal chatter, we fail to see what’s happening around us. The big things, the clouds, the smells, the people needing us, how we CAN be of use to the people who need us if we only pay attention. Our arms can’t be open, our minds can’t be open, we can’t live spaciously if we are not present.

I want a big life, and I want my children to know a big life. I suppose I feel the responsibility of passing that on, and the only way I can do that is to live so myself.

Getting in touch with my son’s stress responses and helping him to get ‘into his body’

As I’ve written before, the arrival of my daughter threw my son’s life upside down. That and a recurring health issue at around the same time. Since he’s been one of two children in the house, his stress responses have gone through transition too. He would grit his teeth when stressed before, anger would rise up noticeably in him and he developed a (possibly just age-related) aversion to loud noises. Now it manifests a little differently, often as clingyness (I hate that word, but you know what I mean) or attention-demanding behaviours.

I think part of the process of his developing emotional needs is me having to learn to change to meet them, too. Where once he would want to be playing with anyone and everyone, or just quietly by himself, now often he will only want to play with me. And being okay with that means having to be okay with being present in the moment, and accepting that this is what I’m doing right now. And that’s a challenge for me, too.

See above.

A great technique I heard about to teach children to bring themselves in to the present is laying down with them and placing a soft toy on their tummy, then encouraging them to breathe slowly and steadily while watching the toy rise and fall with their breath.

I also found the “calm down jar” concept works pretty well when my son feels threatened or worked up or when he feels like he *needs* me but can’t explain why. We can sit down and look at it together (it’s pretty damn calming, actually) or he can lay or sit down and watch it by himself. The blue, the chaotic movement of the glitter and the release when he (or I) shakes it up brings him (or I) back into now and clears his head a little.

I guess I’m finding that as I go on in my parenting journey, the meaning of attachment changes. I sort of imagined the trajectory being that kids grow up and out, out into the world and needing us less and less. My experience at the moment is that my preschooler needs me more than ever, and that’s okay, if unexpected.

People who are really decent at mindfulness seem to also be able to tap into the fact that impermanence is in everything we do, nothing sticks forever. And bathing in the rays of whatever impermanence we’re going through now is probably the easiest way to manage these passing moments as they happen to us.

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