Here it is. The mindset shift about mindfulness I think all parents need to hear.
Last week, I was listening to Dr. Becky's Good Inside podcast (which I so highly recommend!) - an older episode someone shared with me about not giving consequences. In this show, she made a simple yet important comment that I rewound to repeat a few times. It was this:
The more we teach a child the skills they need for life, the more control they will have over their behaviour.
So I started to think about what skills we need in life to really thrive and be happy.
As parents, we often prioritize teaching our kids academic, extracurricular and social skills. We help them do well in school, excel at sports and/or activities they enjoy and engage in many social events. We support them so that they can make friends, attend a good University, start a great career, attract a partner...and then they are set.
But the soft skills involved in this success are too often overlooked.
Think about what helps us achieve the typical standards of success. Have you ever really stopped to teach your child how to:
or show compassion towards themselves
Do we think of this as a natural part of development, something they will learn over time or through experiences? Maybe?
But this was my aha moment!
Are we expecting children to know more than they are capable of knowing, without really teaching these valuable life skills first?
These are all foundational to our mindset, and to me mindset is everything.
I'm guilty! I have yelled at my children for not listening; I have asked my children to be more grateful; I have been annoyed when they weren't paying attention; and I have urged both children to be calm when they struggled to express big emotions.
I have seen the negative behaviour, which is why I can now spot the importance of teaching these life skills today.
Since mindfulness is a huge part of awareness, mindful exercises and mindset tools can assist in the development of these life skills, ultimately supporting behaviour control.
Over the past several years, there has been a revolutionary shift in the openness to mindfulness, meditation and understanding the power of self-talk. The topic and tools surrounding mindfulness have become fully mainstream, seen in children's books, dedicated YouTube channels, and plenty of apps designed to help support kids through tough moments. We've also even seen teachers adopt mindfulness techniques in the classroom to help with transitions, emotional regulation and a growth mindset.
And while many studies demonstrate positive outcomes when mindfulness tools are activated, the practice of mindfulness is often met with resistance.
It's all about silence and stillness, kids won't do that
It takes too much time
It is a momentary relief of stress, not daily management
It's too hard to quiet the mind
Well let's reframe how mindfulness is difficult, timely and just not for your family.
Myth #1 - Mindfulness is about stillness and silence
Getting out the biggest myth first. Mindfulness is not about being in a serene place, alone, in silence, sitting still. While that does sound nice, no one has time for that. And kids just aren't into it.
Instead, let's think of the ways we can bring mindfulness into the day. All this means is teaching the skill of pause. Taking short moments throughout the day to pay attention to what's happening around you and inside of you. A check-in with yourself to say, "Hey, here I am, how's it going?"
Teaching the skill - try this:
Use The bathroom: we all love an extra minute in there anyway, right? Take this time to breathe and stop where you're at. Look in the mirror, ask how you're feeling, notice where your thoughts are. Do you need a pump-up or a smile? Give it to yourself.
Transition at the doorway: Before you go into a new class, someone's house, an after school program, pause at the door. Breathe in and exhale long. Shake your hands into the present. Connect the mind and body. Get ready for what's next.
Sense the outdoors: When you're running from school to event to program, use the outdoors to tap into your senses and bring yourself into the present. Notice something you can smell, feel your foot hit the ground, listen for trucks or animals.
Eat with gratitude: Turn off the device and take a moment to connect with your food, noticing tastes and textures. If you're with family or friends, glance around, appreciate those you're with by smiling at each of them. Notice the feelings you have inside.
The benefit: have you ever asked your kid to Pay Attention? A pause teaches present moment awareness. Learning how to direct focus can happen anywhere in seconds, it's just a re-connect of the mind and body.
Myth #2 - Mindfulness helps you escape from stress
Mindfulness is not going to stop what's happening around you - if you find something stressful, that may not go away, right away. What mindfulness will do is open you up to yourself, connecting your thoughts and feelings, and allowing you to lean into the discomfort with more love and compassion for yourself in the moment.
Mindfulness is simply being open to all of your emotions and learning how to connect with yourself without judgment. Even in moments of stress and worry, fear or pain, we can learn a lot about who we are and what we desire. And in this space of openness, we can also care for ourselves like we would a friend.
Teaching the skill: when discomfort comes along, place a hand on your heart (or wherever the body holds that emotion) take a breath into this space. Just sit with yourself for a moment or two. Maybe even ask yourself "what do I need right now?" See what happens next, notice how you feel differently after connecting with yourself and not the stress.
The benefit: knowing how to compassionately care for yourself in moments of need will help with emotional expression and regulation, and it will reduce tension within.
Myth #3 - You Need a Quiet Mind
So. Not. True. Our mind is active by nature - it is designed to wander and scan for danger to protect us, even when nothing is wrong. To do this, the mind naturally repeats anxious thoughts from the past, ones you've had for days or even years before, and it will future-trip by going into what-if worries or overthinking things that have not happened yet.
Simply noticing when your mind is wandering IS what mindfulness is about. When you notice your thoughts, that's a mindful win! That's awareness. Nothing more is required.
Teaching the skill: When you notice you aren't in the present moment, take a breath and pay attention to your chatter, letting it in without judgment. If you can let the thought pass, great. If the thought persists, invite it in, asking it what it needs and how you can help yourself through this moment.
Remember, what we resist persists. So don't push the thought away or try to be quiet, let it in with curiosity and compassion.
The benefit: noticing thoughts can help you behave in ways that support you better. The information thoughts have will help you determine your next move with confidence, stop negative thought traps and with reflection, teach you about your likes, dislikes, boundaries and desires.
I hope this post is a helpful, quick guide that puts a new spin on mindfulness for you.
Mindfulness is available to everyone when you're ready, and it's the skill our kids need to succeed today :)