After my son’s first piano lesson, I decided to sit with him while he was practicing. We both ended up having a good time and I realized that working with him could be an opportunity for us to spend time together while I too learned a new skill. When he sees me learning and struggling through the difficult points, he sees that I’m invested in this too.
As a family, we are also learning other things together, like mindfulness. We know that kids take more interest in what they are learning, and are better able to apply it in their daily living, when their parents reinforce the new learning through their own behavior and parenting. When my children witness my efforts to respond mindfully or practice meditation, I’m showing them that I see value in taking care of myself and using mindfulness to improve family experiences.
Does this mean that we need to be perfect parents, always responding in a calm and mindful way to the various (and sometimes crazy) situations that we find ourselves in? Absolutely not. I often playfully ask the children I work with if they are robots, because if they are humans, they (like us) will naturally make mistakes. Struggles are opportunities to learn. Kids see us when we mess up, and we can use those moments to practice (and teach) self-compassion and forgiveness.
Many parents may conceptually understand the value in practicing mindfulness but may feel overwhelmed with the idea of learning new strategies or making time for meditation. The good news is that kids learn mindfulness best when it introduced through brief but frequent practice.
Weaving small moments of practice throughout normal routines means that the whole family benefits and no one is overwhelmed with a monumental shift in daily living.
Here are some examples of adding small shifts that can add up to bigger impacts:
Noticing the flavors while eating a favorite food
Listening to the sounds you hear while walking the dog
Taking three purposeful breaths before loading into the car
Thinking about what another person might be thinking or feeling
Paying attention to parts of your body and purposefully relaxing them to relieve tension before bed
As a parent and school counselor, I am drawn to mindfulness because it incorporates so many of the skills kids need to develop into happy, fulfilled adults. Empathy, social skills, insight into what is happening within and around us, attending to each moment fully while releasing unhelpful thought patterns, patience, perspective taking and compassion to name a few.
In my family mindfulness groups, participants will have an opportunity to expand their communication skills both within their own family as well as with others. I’ll be using turn and talk moments, games, stories, interactive experiences, family-friendly meditations, and creative journaling to help kids and their parents learn how to become more insightful into their own experiences and how to be more compassionate in their interactions with others and the world.
In the Introduction to Mindfulness group, we’ll focus on basic brain functioning and the fight, flight or freeze response, mindful choices, focusing attention and fully experiencing the senses, mindful movement, optimistic thinking, perspective taking, gratitude, kindness, and community service.
In the Mindfulness for Families Weekly Meet-Up group, we’ll be using selected themes in mindfulness to guide us through developing healthy responses to life’s difficulties while encouraging mindful behaviors and thinking patterns. Based on Susan Kaiser Greenland’s mindfulness themes, these topics include concepts such as attention, appreciation, and acceptance, and are designed to guide how we think and interact with others.
What to expect when you come to mindfulness group
These groups are designed for children and their caregivers to learn mindfulness together. Families of all shapes and sizes are welcome (even portions of families if all members cannot attend). We start with casual discussion questions among family members before transitioning into an interactive movement game. As a group we’ll then learn about and discuss the topic of the week which may involve a story, activity, or craft. We’ll bring it all together at the end of the session with some creative journaling and a group discussion about how the week’s topic can be applied into family life during the week. Families will be sharing what is working for them and also brainstorming together to create new, mindful strategies for addressing areas that need a fresh perspective.
Whether we are learning how to play piano or how to practice mindfulness, a basic principle holds true: the more we practice, the better we get. Our neurons make new, more complex connections as we learn and practice new skills and ways of thinking. This process, called neuroplasticity, gives us hope that we can change old patterns of thinking and behavior.
Please join us as we begin this journey into more mindful family life, with an understanding that none of us is perfect, but we can come together as a community to learn and practice peaceful living with an open heart, led by love for our children.
Learn more and register at www.playful-minds.com.