Family life is hectic. Chaotic, even: People living together with different personalities, schedules, needs and interests. Juggling meals, laundry, appointments, lessons, pets and time together can leave us feeling frazzled and disconnected. Building mindfulness into your family’s experience can reduce your stress level and allow you to connect with each other in a restorative way.
Mindfulness is a focus on the present while being aware of your emotions, how your body feels, and your surroundings. This state of mind can be very restorative—allowing you to be in the moment and not worry about the future or ruminate on the past.
Try some of these ideas to practice mindfulness together as a family:
- Go for a walk as a family or have a picnic. Look and listen carefully to your surroundings, without talking for a few minutes. Then ask your child what he or she saw and heard. Did any of you see or hear things you usually miss when you are out and about? Do you see evidence of changing seasons or animal life that you hadn’t really noticed before?
- Watch the sun, moon, and stars. Stop to watch the sunset. Take the time to look at the moon and stars with your kids. Look at the clouds and watch them move and change. Ask your kids what they see and how it makes them feel.
- Put down your phone, tablet, and computer. Take out your earbuds. Turn off screens and electronics of all kinds. Make some time each day, or each week (an hour after dinner or sometime over the weekend) to be together at home without electronics. Encourage everyone in your family to read a book, play with the dog, draw, write a letter to Grandma (on paper), bake something, take a nap–any quiet, relaxing activity. Be in that moment and enjoy the activity. Observe your child and ask her about what she has chosen to do, why, and how she feels about it.
- As a parent, model intentional listening when you talk with your child. Put away your phone and give your child your full attention. Make eye contact. Listen carefully to what your child has to say and ask questions to make sure you understand. Observe your child’s body language. Be present and open to hearing what your child has to say.
Learn to eat, and cook, mindfully
- Mindfulness includes all the senses, including taste and smell. Often our lives our so hectic that we end up eating without really tasting our food. Embrace meal times as a chance to be in the moment and savor the experience. You can start with just an apple, or you can try mindful eating at a meal. Encourage your family to slow down, really look at and smell their food. If it’s the type of food that you can pick up—like and apple—ask them to hold the food and notice how it feels. Is it heavy or light? What kind of texture does it have to the touch? Smooth, rough? Then have everyone take a bit and chew slowly. How does it taste? How does it feel in your mouth? What kind of sound does it make when you take a bite?
- Get kids involved in preparing meals and encourage them to experience the process mindfully, with all their senses. How does tearing lettuce for a salad feel? How does the inside of a cucumber look different than the outside? What sound does it make when you sauté onions? How do different ingredients taste and smell throughout the preparation process and at the end in a completed dish? Taking the time to carefully observe ingredients as you prepare a meal can build your family’s enjoyment of the food.
Play old games in a new way
- I Spy: Play this game in a familiar place but encourage your family to look for things they hadn’t noticed before. You could also play “I Hear with My Little Ear” and focus on sounds instead of things players see.
- Simon Says: Play this game encouraging your family members to pay attention to how their body feels. Take turns giving the cues. “Simon says, take a deep breath.” “Simon says, stretch your toes.” “Wiggle them!” You can play this standing, sitting or lying down. Instead of players getting “out” for doing something without a “Simon Says,” give the person who gave the last cue another turn to give a cue, and then move on to the next person. Focusing on how your body feels and how it reacts to breathing, stretching, tensing and relaxing muscles can calm or energize your family.
Including mindfulness activities in your family’s routine can help you get to know each other better, feel more connected, and reduce household stress.
Related Books from Magination Press
Breathe is a conversation between a boy and his mother at bedtime. But this conversation can happen at any time, in any place. This introduction to mindfulness presents a collection of illustrated exercises to help little ones become aware of their breath and their body. Includes a Note to Parents & Caregivers that describes the exercises and their effects in more detail.
Bee Still: An Invitation to Meditation
Bentley is a lovable, calm honeybee. He lives in a hive in a tall oak tree. One day, the queen told the bees to get busy. This sent them scrambling into a tizzy. But not Bentley. He chose to be patient and wait. He decided to look for a place to meditate. Bee Still is a child-friendly introduction to meditation. Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with more ideas for introducing meditation into your child’s life.
A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness
Sometimes we just need to pause — to stop, breathe, and take a moment for ourselves. To be mindful. Told in rhyming verse and beautifully illustrated, A World of Pausabilities is an inviting introduction to mindfulness. Readers will learn how to apply mindfulness to simple, everyday moments, and how days are filled with endless possibilities to take a pause. Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers that further discusses mindfulness and ways to introduce pauses into your child’s life.