Be here, be now, be mindful
With stress management, awareness and mindfulness classes being introduced in many work places we thought it is time to share our passion for a well-balanced mind with you. Moving in a fast paced world can be challenging enough for grownups but just imagine how much more information children have to work through seeing and experiencing so many situations for the first time.
While of course it is necessary for every employee including every Nanny and indeed every person to find a way to deal with stress and increasing pressure for themselves it can also be fun to explore those strategies together with children and for them it is a good skill to learn early on.
But is it really necessary for children to learn tactics to deal with stress?
We think it is definitely not too early to introduce mindfulness into daily activities for them to get the benefits such as better concentration, dealing with emotions, better health and a happier life outlook and to learn the tools they will need throughout their life to cope with stress and pressure.
‘Mindfulness is about being fully engaged and awake in each moment of life.’ says Dr Richard Chambers, clinical psychologist and mindfulness consultant. Hence it is about experiencing what is actually happening in your surrounding right now. Considering all the different experience children have together with parents and nannies it can be easy to integrate simple mindfulness strategies in the life of you and the children. Below we list a couple of ideas to try but remember, changes and habits develop slowly so keep practising with the kids and be surprised at how intense every moment feels when paying attention to it.
Mindfulness examples for children 2 years and older:
- When waking up the children or seeing them awake get them to stretch and feel the touch of the clothes, the cold (or maybe now warm) air on their skin, feel the different muscles and maybe ask them to imagine that they open the eyes for the first time in their life. Let them describe what they see and how they see it.
- Every time the children eat ensure that they sit down and fully focus on the food. Not only will it increase a development of natural hunger and satisfaction feelings. Tasting the different tastes and consistencies of food and looking at the colours, maybe even creating dishes that include a variety of colours using fresh fruits and vegetables, slows down the eating process, makes eating fun and sharpens the senses for mindfulness eating and experiencing taste at a new level.
- Every activity whether indoors or outdoors provides various opportunities to become fully awake in the moment. Activities can include feeling different textures, smelling different spices, seeing different colours and hearing different sounds.
- When speaking to children give them full attention and also ask full attention from them when you speak to them. Seek eye contact and talk on their level at a speed they can follow. When they talk give them time to explain without jumping to conclusions too quickly or finish sentences for them. Your mindfulness with them will give them security and a feeling of being loved and valued.
- Give mindful hugs and focus fully on the body to body contact; holding the child without limiting her ability to move provides great experiences for you and the child.
- When reading picture books spend a long time looking at each detail and talk to the child about it.
- Ask the child how she is feeling right now in this moment and observe his or her reaction. If they talk already let them describe how the emotion feels in their body. Does it make them shiver or feel like hot chocolate in the belly? Does it tighten their throat or feels like tingling?
Younger children will be less focused on one experience but can still enjoy mindful interaction with you, feel different textures and listen to different sounds.
Besides mindfulness there are a couple of great relaxation techniques you can explore together with the child.
Mind Journey and Muscle Relaxation
You can go on a mind journey getting them to close down their eyes and describe the surrounding they walk through. An example can be a visit to the beach, the sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean, the sand under their feet when running. You can collect shells in the mind together or dance with fairies.
Another option is muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen. This technique uses conscious tension in muscles and conscious relaxation afterwards to relax not only the body but also the mind. You can get the child to make a fist and press really hard for some seconds before asking her to relax the fist. Clench the teeth and relax. Make a face as if you ate something really sour and relax. You can discuss the feelings of relaxation afterwards and ask whether they felt a tingling or some warmth.
Sometimes it takes a little time to discover which of the methods work well for the child or different methods work at different times.
As with everything new skills take time to develop. Start off with little changes and gradually increase the amount of time you spend with mindfulness activities. A couple of minutes each day will serve as a foundation for later development.
Which moments are most precious for you? What gets your child to fully focus on one activity or experience? Inspire us with your stories and share them below in the comment section.