The Most Important Life Skill That Your Child May Be Missing
“Mommy, I don’t want to go! I’m tired. I don’t feel well.” Does this sound familiar. We live in time where we expect a lot from our children. We want them to be great in school, excel at their extracurricular activities and have tons of friends and meaningful relationships. We chauffeur our kids from preschool, to playdates, to dance and swim lessons, to day care and family excursions, often with very little down time. Obviously we are trying to do what we think is best for them, by giving them every opportunity to practice skills that will help them in later life, but are we doing more damage than good?
Having too many commitments can be stressful for even the most organized adult, how do you think it makes our children feel? “Do more”, “try harder”, “be greater”, may potentially be the messages that are doing our children a huge disservice. According to the UN World Labor Report, “stress has become one of the most serious health issues of the 20th century and a worldwide epidemic.” Stress affects our immune system and is a known contributor to numerous diseases such as heart disease and cancer. We may be unconsciously teaching our kids to glorify fast paced lifestyles, without giving them the skills to learn how to assess when it is time to slow down or even teaching them how to slow down. They practice meeting high demands from such a young age, and carry the burden of being stretched too thin into adulthood with devastating consequences.
I am no exception , when my daughter was born, I wanted to do everything with her. From only a few months old, we were regulars at mommy and me classes, library story time and music lessons. We even did mommy and me yoga. I loved those activities and so did she. In no way am I saying that you shouldn’t go out and do things with your child, but what I am suggesting is that we take time to tune-in to ourselves and realize when too much fun becomes a stress on the body.
In the Holistic Kids program the I offer through Whole Health Whole Home, children are taught how to be mindful so the they can check in with themselves and manage stress. Mindfulness is the act of nonjudgmental awareness. It is paying attention to what is happening in the present. As adults, we often live in the past, or in the future and miss out on the present. In other words, we focus on future events such as, what we are going to do with the kids on the weekend, what we are going to cook for dinner tonight and how we are going to work through our to-do list for the day. We also ruminate on past events thinking about how we’ve had a rough morning, or wishing we hadn’t said or done something and regretting not having spent enough time with our kids. Our children often think the same way. How do we bring our attention to the present moment, free from worry and regret? The answer is teaching mindfulness.
So how can we teach mindfulness? It is such a simple practice that sometimes it is hard to believe that it can have any effect, but it is effective. All you have to do is bring your attention to the present moment. Most people my think that practicing mindfulness means that you have to sit in meditation and observe your breathing. Luckily for us and for the enjoyment of our kids, mindfulness can be practiced doing any activity (i.e. eating, walking, playing, etc.). The simple act of having your child blow bubbles, is a great way to slow things down, have children breathe more deeply and be present.
Here are 3 wonderful benefits of teaching mindfulness to children:
1. Renew and Rest the Mind
Being in a state of still awareness gives our children’s mind a break. It is a chance for them to relax and renew themselves during the day rather than only at night when they sleep. When they get over tired or they experience intense thoughts and emotions, which can become overwhelming, mindfulness can give them a chance to regroup and refresh themselves.
2. Enhance Observational Skills and Concentration
It is amazing to watch children learn to focus their attention, to notice the rhythm of their breath or to listen to the subtle sounds in their environment. Just like a muscle they learn to concentrate for longer periods of time and learn to pick up on greater subtleties in their lives. When managing emotions and in their social interactions, children will be able to gather more information from being present and they will become better problem solvers and respond to situations with greater skill.
3. Developing Compassion
Children who learn to “tune-in” to their own emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them or attaching too much judgement to them, are more likely to practice self-acceptance and self kindness, as well as, become more likely to feel empathy towards others. This process enhances social skills and reduces occurrences of bullying because it helps children develop compassion. With this practice overtime children learn to co-exist peacefully and change the world through their thoughts and actions. It is truly a beautiful thing.
As with all habits, children learn best from example. So try to develop a mindfulness practice yourself and when you do practice with your kids, keep the activities light hearted and fun so that your children will be more willing to participate in the future. If you would like extra support integrating mindfulness into your child’s daily routine, join us for the Holistic Kids program where your child will be encouraged to practice mindfulness among its peers.