"Inner work teaches us that despite all the things that happen outside our control, our responses still mean that we can author our own lives." – Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD
Mindfulness has become a powerful revolution. The more we discover that the power of presence, the happier and more fulfilled we become. It's a practice that offers a pathway to better physical and mental health, productivity, creativity, and joy.
Most critical to this "mindfulness revolution" is the ability to reach our children.
Teaching mindfulness to our kids is one of the most important things we can do as parents and as a society. The distractions and overstimulation brought on by a technology-based culture and the academic expectations placed upon children can create an overwhelming feeling of responsibility and helplessness for our youth as they try to learn and grow. It's crucial we provide our children with the tools they need to foster a centred, balanced, and joyful life. It's important we cultivate mindfulness in the home, be present with our children, and help them to listen to and to trust their own inner guidance system.
In Dr. Shefali Tsabary's beautiful book, The Conscious Parent, she writes, "No matter how it manifests, our children's essence is pure and loving. When we honour this essence, they trust we understand that their internal world is good and worthy, regardless of what manifests externally."
Our children want to know that they're seen, that they're worthy, and that they matter. They need to feel safe, supported, and empowered. They must learn how to go inside to cultivate self-love, happiness, joy, and peace. We can show them the way, and we might learn a little bit in the process.
Here are five simple activities we can teach our children to foster mindfulness as a daily practice:
When children are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, nervous, or angry, taking just a few minutes to breathe deeply, in and out, is an incredibly powerful tool. It calms the mind, relaxes the body, and relieves stress. It can be done anywhere, any time, and is a practice that can help kids feel connected, safe, and able to stay calm and attentive.
Making a list of three things to be grateful for every day encourages us to see the beauty in the little things, and helps us to recognize and focus upon our many blessings. Your child might thank their ears for enabling them to hear, or the friend at school who helped them with their math homework, or perhaps they're thankful for the beautiful blue butterfly they saw on their way home. In any case, practicing gratitude will promote happiness and will enable our children to recognize and expect all of life's many miracles.
Focusing on each of our senses throughout the day is an activity that promotes gratitude, creativity, and helps children to live in the moment and enjoy new experiences. We can remind our children to slow down, get quiet, and use their senses. Do they see something new? Can they hear something off in the distance? Did they taste something sweet today, or perhaps they felt a fuzzy object that made their fingers tingle? This activity can result in some pretty special discussions with our kids at the end of each day.
I believe our children are inherently kind, and we can expand upon their genuine loving nature by teaching them to perform random acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. We can teach them how valuable they are by volunteering for organizations we care about, helping the elderly with their groceries, donating to causes that are important to us, and the list is endless. The more children practice kindness, the more empathetic, compassionate, and loving they will become.
This one's big. It's impossible to teach our children how to be optimistic if we don't practice what we preach, so it starts within. The good news is that if we choose an optimistic approach to every situation and encounter because we know our children are watching and mimicking, it will be extremely beneficial in all aspects of our lives—for both ourselves and our children. It's not always easy, but it is possible, and it's well worth the work.
Integrating these practices into our daily lives and the lives of our children takes time, but I'm willing to give it everything I've got.
This post originally appeared on Kelli Rain's blog.