When I was growing up, one of my favorite places in the world was the swing-set in my backyard. I have vivid, lovely memories of swinging, feeling the sunshine on my face, the wind in my hair, and watching the clouds up above. I would often sing with my mom and sisters, laugh, and imagine. Those were not extravagant moments, but rather simple joys. They were the moments that I experienced beauty and connection with my family and the world. They were moments that I was mindful.
Mindfulness is simply experiencing our life in the moment. It’s when we don’t focus on past events or all the things that could happen in the future. We put aside concerns about our children, careers, school, work-lives, carpools, expenses, and relationships. We allow ourselves to be. We notice the beauty in the world. We notice our experience in our bodies. We breathe.
Recent research has supported that mindfulness can help children develop improved focus, learning, and retention in school. Studies of mindfulness based-programs in schools has also found that children who use these approaches have better self-compassion, feel more connected towards others, and experience fewer episodes of behavioral concerns and aggression.
How can we as parents encourage mindfulness in children? We need to start with ourselves. We need to stop, breathe, and notice more. Rush less. Plan less. Turn off the electronics. Enjoy the journey of life moment by moment.
We can involve our children in these practices. We can teach them to breathe. We can teach them to stop and notice. Start with a few small instances, and work up to longer periods of calm and peace. Parents can integrate mindfulness into normal activities, such as bath-time, walks around the park, or drinking a glass of water. Focus on what you notice, such as sights, sounds, touch, smell, and taste.
Experience the now. Let the rest fall away. Just for a moment. Enjoy your child. Enjoy the gift of experience. One of my favorite authors, Rachel Martin, says, “Little things matter.” I agree. By being mindful, your child will have the gift of observation, connection, and contentment. In the moment. When it matters.