1. Singing Bowl/Chime EXERCISE
- APPLICATION: Listen to all of the sounds outside of the room, inside of the room, and all around. Pause. Share what sounds you hear and notice. Ring the chimes or singing bowl singing bowl. Listen to the sound the whole way through until it stops with eyes open or closed. You can raise a hand once you no longer hear it, or open your eyes if your eyes were closed.
SUGGESTIONS: Incorporate this exercise throughout the day (during transitions) to create more pauses in your everyday routine. Incorporate into family dinners together by sitting down at the table and doing this exercise followed by each family member expressing gratitude for one thing. Once the exercise is complete, everyone is welcome to start eating.
2. Take 5 and Drop In EXERCISES
- TAKE 5: What do you see? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you hear? What do you feel?
DROP IN: Scan your body from head to toe. What do you feel on your skin? In your muscles? What do you feel inside of your body? What emotion or feeling are you experiencing? Happy? Sad? Grateful? Scared? Uncertainty? What do you sense beyond your emotions?
SUGGESTIONS: Use these exercises 1st thing in the morning for yourself & get creative with using these exercises throughout your day with your children. Make up a game around TAKE 5 (i.e. I spy with my little eye, I smell with my little nose…).
OTHER SUGGESTIONS: For smell, use different scents with children (i.e. essential oils) and have them guess what scent they smell (i.e. orange, lemon, etc..). For taste, have them close their eyes and have them smell, taste and savor the provided food (i.e. use a raisin and have them feel the texture between their fingers, on their tongue, texture as they chew slowly, sweetness of juices. Bring this “game” into family dinners when eating together.
3. Get Grounded EXERCISES
TREE EXERCISE: Stand tall and steady with feet firm into the ground and say: My body is like a tree. My tree has roots. My roots reach down to the Earth’s core. I send my breath down into the Earth. I release frustration, anxiety, fear, etc…
SUGGESTION: Use with yourself if you are feeling unsettled and ungrounded and use with children by asking them to stand like a tree when their energy is scattered, disorganized, upset, etc...
ROCK EXERCISE: Curl up into child’s pose on the ground and say: My body is like a rock. I am still and calm. I am safe and secure. I am strong and steady.
SUGGESTION: Use for yourself to calm and ground. Do it with your children when they are feeling out of control. Place a hand on their back while you reassure them that they have the control inside of themselves to be calm and still. Reassure them that they are safe and loved. Let them know you understand how difficult it can be to get calm and still. Praise them.
4. Anchor Breath and Buddy Breath EXERCISE
ANCHOR BREATH: Ask child(ren) what an anchor is and how it helps a ship in the ocean. Ask children what happens to a ship in water that is not anchored to the ocean floor and what happens to a ship that is anchored to the ocean floor. Show them the singing bowl or a different object and have them imagine it as a ship with an anchor at the bottom. Either demo or ask child(ren) to lie on their backs and place the singing bowl on child's belly and ask them to breathe in through their nose to smell the flowers and let it go. Have them watch the bowl rising and falling as they breathe in and out. Explain to them that their breath is just like a ship anchored to the ocean floor. Explain that focusing on our breath can helps us stay calm in the middle of the ocean even when there is a storm swirling around.
SUGGESTION: Ask your child(ren) if they can think of a time in their lives when they think they might be able to focus on their breath to calm themselves down. The answers you receive may include: when I am mad, angry, sad, upset, or even happy (it is true, sometimes we get overly excited and need help calming ourselves down). Act out an example such as laughing hysterically (little kids love this) and then return to your breath with one hand on your belly to show how to calm yourself down just by focusing on your breath. Then have each child place his or her own hand on their own belly as they breathe. Explain to them that this is their anchor breath and they can use this breath to calm themselves down anytime they need to, even while sitting or standing.
SUGGESTION: Use this exercise for yourself and with your child(ren) to find your/their anchor breath in times of overwhelm, frustration, upset, anger, etc.. It’s important our children understand that we too experience strong emotions and we need to take moments to settle ourselves back to a feel good state.
BREATHING BUDDY: Have your child(ren) choose their favorite stuffed animal, lie down on their backs and place their stuffed animal on their belly. Ask them to watch the animal moving up as they breathe in and down as they breathe out. Tell them this is their breathing buddy and whenever they need to calm themselves down, or whenever they are feeling scared, they can always use their breathing buddy just like this.
SUGGESTION: Use this exercise with children before bedtime for a more calming transition to sleep.
5. Leaf Meditation EXERCISE
APPLICATION: Find a few different leaves with or without your child and carve out some time to examine each leaf together. Notice the color, the texture, trace your finger around the shape of the leaf, is it pointy/jagged/soft/crispy, etc..? Look at the veins on the leaf, notice any holes on the leaf, etc..
SUGGESTION: Find a special, accessible place in the house to keep your leaves. Maybe have acorns, flowers and other objects from nature in a box with the leaves. This exercise can be used as a transitional exercise from one task to the next. Can also be done organically as you are headed out to the car to go some place, stop with your child to notice that bug, the clover, the leaf or flower on the ground. All with intentional pause, presence and curiosity.
6. Create a Scavenger Hunt
APPLICATION: Make a list of items that would be found outside. The list can be made with your child(ren) or not. Write those items down on paper and begin to search for those things together.
7. Mirror EXERCISE
APPLICATION: Take a moment with your child to look closely into one each others eyes and see if you can find each others reflections. Ask your child to find their own image in your eyes and you try to find your image in their eyes.
SUGGESTION: Use this exercise when speaking to them or to anyone else. Always look for that connection when with another person, especially your child(ren).
The above exercises are useful in establishing connection, presence, intention, attunement, focus and attention – all things mindfulness. Remember, there is no end goal in mindful parenting, just an ongoing practice for both you and your child(ren).
As long as we are taking good care of ourselves and have good practices in place for ourselves, we will better be able to help our children do the same for themselves. Adopting a regular sitting practice allows for us to strengthen our mindfulness muscles and in turn allows us to help our children do the same.
Always be sure to try as best you are able to use a calm voice, remain as steady as possible in the heat of the moment, make eye contact, validate and feel your child(ren)’s feelings with them (i.e. it seems like you are angry.. that’s a strong feeling… I know how it feels to be angry and it can feel tough… I am here for you and I love you). Be willing to forgive yourself when you don’t get it “right”. Be willing to have compassion for yourself. Be willing to apologize. Your children are looking to you for the lessons on forgiveness and compassion.
Place a gentle hand on your child(ren)’s back when redirecting them or when they have repeated themselves over and over again (i.e. place hand on back and say I heard you say that already, or I’ve asked you three times now to pick up your toys).
Use questions instead of telling children to stop unwanted behavior. Examples: Do you notice your behavior right now? Do you notice how you are talking to me? Do you notice that you are not treating others with kindness right now? This allows children to reflect and figure out what it is they are doing on their own, leading them to their own solutions rather than being told how they should behave. Redirect them by asking them to try that again (i.e. will you try that again please?).