As parents and carers we have so much vying for our attention. That coupled with the very real and present danger of the looming climate crisis you may be feeling overwhelmed, powerless or scared.
The views expressed in this article have served my family, my students and I well but they should not be used as a replacement for the specialised support needed in times of trauma. If you or your family have been directly affected by the bush fire crisis, please reach out to the appropriate professionals.
Mindfulness and meditation have been scientifically proven to enhance wellbeing, feelings of optimism and decrease stress levels. Your ability to monitor and process stress has never been more important. We need our wellbeing to be a priority so we can support our families and community members who may be suffering. For those who think they don’t have enough time to be mindful, let’s make it easy.
Here are five simple activities you can share with children, to bring you back into the present, observing your thoughts with curiosity and kindness.
Mindfulness is bringing your attention to your body, breathe, thoughts and actions, now, in this moment, while embracing an attitude non- judgement and curiosity.
I encourage you to do the work first. Which means you should try all these activities a couple of times before you share them with young people. All invitations are just that an invite. It doesn’t mean they will want to join in at first. However, over time they may feel more comfortable with the idea of joining in.
1. Anchor to the present
Focus on your feet. Invite the children to join in by using the following prompts. Have you said hello to your feet today? Have you thanked them for their service in taking you here there and everywhere? Now, focus on the sensation of your feet on the floor. Roll back on your heels then slowly roll to your toes, side to side. Paying attention to how it feels on different points of contact.
Mamas, if your thoughts wander, embrace an attitude of non-judgement and bring your attention and awareness back to your feet.
2. Breath breaks
Deep, full, mindful breathing is one of the most powerful tools that you can use to calm the stress responses in your brain and body. But it takes practice. Like anything it is best to practice when you are calm so in moments of overwhelm or big emotions you can more easily access this skill.
Set a reminder in your phone to go off three times a day. When it does, say to your child “It’s time for a Breath Break. Want to join me?” Take 5 deep mindful breaths. Inhale slowly though your nose while the oxygen fills up your belly like a balloon. Then exhale slowly out of your mouth. Repeat.
3. Think aloud
When you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. STOP DROP and BREATHE. Explain to the child or children in your care, “I am feeling frustrated. For me to make good choices I need to take a Breath Break because it helps me to calm down and then think clearly. You are welcome to join me.” When you choose calm over chaos everyone wins.
4. Meditation for more than YOU
You can invite your child to join you in a simple meditation. Set up cushions alongside of you. Let your children know ahead of time that you are going to meditate, this is quiet time, you will be meditating for 10 minutes, and they are welcome to join in or not. Put on soothing music and focus on your breath…as it comes in and out of your nostrils. If your thoughts wander label them as ‘thinking’ then return your attention to the breath as it leaves and enters your nostrils. If your children/child has decided to join, you can say we are paying attention to our breath or simply tell them to sit in a quiet and comfortable position and listen to the music.
5. Schedule mindful moments
When I say schedule, I don’t mean add it to your list. I mean choose an action and commit to being totally present for 15 minutes. If you are doing the dishes you are focusing on each movement. The cloth touching the plates, the water on your hands, the motions from the water to the dry plate. Your practice could be playing with your children. In both instances when ever your mind wanders label it ‘thinking’ and go back to the task or moment.
Like all things in life, take the activities that resonate with you and leave the rest. If you are interested in cultivating your own practice join us for Mindful March, a month-long program where community members are invited to experience a variety of classes from over 20 different businesses for FREE!
By Cathy Koman from Mindful Storytelling. Westside mum Cathy delivers workshops and training at schools, early learning centres and in the community. Check out mindfulmarch.org.au for a month long community celebration supporting participants to be more mindful. mindfulstorytelling.com.au