In a time of increasing uncertainty and stress, mindfulness is more important than ever. Mindfulness is a heightened awareness of what we’re feeling and sensing. It brings us into the moment, and allows us to take notice of what’s happening around us. It can help us to slow down, gain perspective, and identify (and relieve) sources of stress.
But this powerful tool doesn’t just apply to moms and dads–it can also be taught to and practiced by our little ones.
Mindfulness Technique: Do a Body Scan
One way to practice mindfulness is to do a body scan, or to intentionally take a moment to quietly take notice of what you’re feeling throughout your body. The aim of a body scan is not necessarily to bring a sense of relaxation, although that may happen. Instead, the goal of this practice is to bring a greater sense of awareness to what you’re feeling physically and emotionally, whether that’s joy, peace, energy, relaxation…or anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and tension.
To perform a body scan on yourself, find a comfortable place to sit and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Close your eyes and take a few long, deep breaths. Now, take a few moments to take notice of how each part of your body is feeling–from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. As you do so, note how you release tension from different areas of your body and begin to feel centered again, as though rooted to the ground.
Practice Mindfulness with Your Little One
Your little one might not have the attention span to do a body scan like the one described above, but they can benefit from your guidance in helping them to also take special notice of how they’re feeling throughout their bodies.
Go on an “adventure” by directing them to imagine they’re on a train, airplane, or submarine that runs through their body. Does their face feel hot or cold? Is their tummy full or rumbly? Ask questions to help them stop and focus on different parts of their body. As you do so, note how they pause, respond, and gain control over what they’re sensing and feeling.
Or, have your little one pretend to be their favorite character, animal, or magical creature. How do your wings feel? How does your tail feel? Can you move your elephant ears? are fun questions to help little ones bring attention to their bodies while engaging in imaginative play.
Or, imagine along with your child that you are both trees, side by side, with roots extended from the soles of your feet down into the ground. Strong winds or times of change don’t topple either of you over. You are both strong and grounded.
Just as doing a body scan can help you feel more centered, these fun activities can help your toddler to learn to overcome feelings of stress and anxiety by taking a pause to become more aware.
In the meantime, you can also feed yourself on mindfulness and meditation practices–right from the safety of your home. Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier, has started live YouTube broadcasts to help you use mindfulness as a tool against anxiety caused by the coronavirus epidemic. To check those out, click here.
At the end of the day, mindfulness is a tool that can be developed and improved, by both you and your children. As you learn to practice this technique as a family, you’ll find that you will feel more peaceful, less stressed, and more harmonious–regardless of the circumstances.