A new study on the positive effects of mindfulness education in school reminded me that practicing these tools at home can prevent stress and anxiety. These calming lessons done in the classroom helped students focus and avoid behavior problems, increased their ability to stay engaged in their work, and increased their capacity to regulate emotions and be less stressed. Let me share a few mindfulness tools I use in my counseling practice and camps that you can use at home.
Focused breathing: Focusing on your breathing brings you into your body and the present moment. Have your kids close their eyes and breathe in and out through their nostrils. Have them follow along with your instructions for 3 cycles. Count to five as they breathe in, pause for a second, and then breathe out as you count down from five to one. After three cycles have them count for themselves in their heads. If they get distracted, tell them to go back to counting and breathing. Continue this for a few minutes and then have them check in with how they feel.
Focus on one sense at a time: Focusing on one sense also brings you into the moment. Have your kids close their eyes or even better blindfold them so no cheating. Tell them they are aliens who just arrived from mars and have no knowledge of things on earth. Give them a Hershey’s kiss and have them first just feel its texture and weight. Then have them really smell it for 30 seconds as if it was the first time being in contact with it. Finally, place the candy into their mouth but no chewing. Tell kids to allow the candy to slowly melt and to notice how the taste differs along the way. Kids love this mindfulness exercise and it really slows them down.
Eat with chopsticks: Americans are famously for wolfing down their food without truly tasting it. Eating with chopsticks requires a lot of focus and attention, and this forces you to eat more slowly and consciously.
Practice these exercises with your children. Make sure all electronics are turned off so everyone is fully present. Discuss the calming effects of these tools and how they can incorporate them into their everyday lives. Use them when they need to settle prior to starting homework, before bedtime, if they get stressed about an upcoming test, or before an audition. Your children will learn that they have control over their emotions and in particular, anxiety and stress. These tools are fun, easy to do, and can be done anywhere. Make them part of your family culture.
Check out Dr. Jordan’s Dinner Dialogue cards to learn more about your children and for kids to learn more about mom and dad. Dinner Dialogue Cards