When I first started to practice mindfulness, I wanted to shout from the rooftops and tell everyone about it.
It was like this mind-blowing new way to live, and I thought literally everyone should know about it, ESPECIALLY those closest to me, including my kids.
Unfortunately, conversations about non-duality and finding eternity in each moment was slightly beyond the comprehension of my young children, and they don’t usually learn by having me lecture them anyway.
So I tried meditating with them, because there are meditations recorded for kids! It was so helpful for me that I was sure that if I simply introduced the concept to them, they’d naturally love it too and become perfect little monk-children.
They sat through one or two before it became something for them to resist, and they’d become belligerent every time I tried putting one on after that.
I struck out a few times here, but since this mindfulness thing is so impactful, and since I want more than anything for my children to learn how to live mindfully, I had to figure out a way to introduce it to them without being so overt and forceful.
Now, they’re still young, but I think I’ve found a few ways to start a lasting mindfulness in my kids…whether they know that’s what they’re doing or not!
3 Things That Have Worked For Us
So the point here is not to turn your kids into ascetic spiritual seekers.
The purpose is to build habits and normalize this type of lifestyle, so that our kids can grow up more aware of their bodies, their feelings, and their surroundings.
It’s basically a way to guard them against the overbearing negative pressures of modern society – screen distractions, hustling at all costs, perfectionism, and the like.
With the goal being to normalize and build habits, here are a few things that has me excited about how mindful my kids are already becoming.
1. Show Them Your Mindfulness Practices
The most important way to normalize mindfulness for your kids is to be open with your own practice.
My children have seen me meditate for years, and I have purposefully done it in the living room while they’re playing, to really make sure they can see me.
I talk to them about my meditation, my breathwork, my men’s group, and pretty much everything else I’m doing, with a bit of background, just to start planting the seeds in their mind.
Over the years, they’ll continue to be exposed to this stuff, and they will at least know the tools that can help them practice mindfulness, which is a big step up from people like me who had to not only build the tools themselves but learn what those tools were in the first place.
2. Talk To Them In A Way That Shows You’re Mindful Of Them
Really being able to see your kids, and tell them that you see them, is one of the fundamental supports you can give them as you create a secure attachment.
It also helps to give them permission to be mindful of their own internal worlds, instead of repressing them and learning not to trust themselves.
This is usually done with compassionate, empathetic communication that proves to them you’re really paying attention.
For example, you could say, “I see you’re really anxious right now. That makes sense, starting a new school year can be scary.”
Or, “When your brother took the toy from you, it made you feel angry. I get that.”
You can also ask questions that get your kids to think about how they feel.
For example, one of the things we ask our kids, rather than “how was school?” is, “what was most fun about school today?”
That gives us insights into what makes them happy and what they think is fun, and opens up further opportunities to see them. “Wow, that sounds fun, you really like to connect with your friends playing sports!”
3. Have Moments Throughout The Day Where you Check In
This is one of my favourite things that we do.
We build in mindful moments throughout the day to give them a little taste of what it’s like to slow down and pay attention to themselves.
We try to do this as often as possible in the moment if something comes up, but here are the three most common ways we utilize this.
Because screens are such a toxic time suck for so much of the planet, we insist on practicing a bit of mindfulness before our kids lose themselves on the iPad or the TV.
We’ll sit together, and I’ll walk them through a quick mindfulness practice that usually includes:
- 1-2 minutes of quiet, meditative breathing,
- Sharing the thing(s) they’re most grateful for at that moment
- Sharing their favourite part of the day so far
- Sometimes we’ll get more body activated, including qi gong and yoga movements
Every once in awhile we’ll briefly talk about why we do this particular practice to keep them reminded of the importance of grounding before this type of activity.
This is a great time to introduce more gratitude. There’s a million reasons why gratitude is a proven life-booster so we’re pretty big on encouraging it.
Instead of prayer, we each share one thing we’re grateful for. I like to mix it up and include different ideas to give the kids a breadth of just how grateful you can truly be for the life we live.
Things I like to touch on:
- Physical health, including functioning senses
- The people and animals who were responsible for all aspects of the food we’re about to eat (from the animal to the delivery driver to the supermarket to the cook)
- The ability to improve, learn, and heal
- The physical goods that make life better
- The time/place in which we live
I like to set the kids up with a mindful reminder before they leave for a day of school.
I’ll usually remind them that they’ll never get a chance to live this day again, and so it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to it and do the best you can.
This is also a great time for affirmations, which again, touches on point 2 and shows them you see them, encouraging them to look inside and notice the same things about themselves.
Basically, Don’t Be Overbearing, Just Make It Natural
Practicing mindfulness openly, noticing your children’s inner lives, and taking moments throughout the day to check in are great ways to begin introducing your kids to the idea of being conscious of what’s going on inside and outside of them.
It won’t look perfect, they may resist, and they may not even want to take part all the time, but if you don’t force it, and you are genuinely interested in showing them mindful practice as a way of life, they will at the very least grow up with a full toolbox to help them navigate their emotions and challenges throughout life.