Figuring out what practices work for you and your family – whether they be mindfulness, kindness, compassion, gratitude or any other type of practice – is a process. My daughter, when she was four, used to tell me quite emphatically, “I don’t want to take deep breaths!” I’ve since learned more playful ways of introducing breathing rather than just asking a four year old to “take some deep breaths” in the middle of a meltdown!
We’ve also learned as a family what works for us. One of the things we’ve learned is that we like to mix it up – sometimes we do breathing or other mindfulness activities at bedtime, other times we take turns at the dinner table saying what we’re grateful for. Currently, we have an Acts of Kindness Jar where we record on slips of paper either kind acts that one of us has done for someone else or that someone else has done for one of us.
I used to worry that not doing one practice consistently would be counter productive. I feel better though, after hearing Dr. Kimberley Schonert-Reichl speak at the Heart-Mind 2018 conference this March. One of the things she said was that research suggests that it may be best to “mix it up” with children. Anecdotally, my daughter does internalize and then use the practices that resonate with her. One of the advantages of exposing children to different practices is that they can choose the strategies that work for them.
Above is a video that I took of Elli last summer. She had been in a bike camp the previous week and, as she tells me in the video, she wanted to calm down her body. To regulate herself, she used some of the strategies that we had been doing together. I was awed at how she was able to transfer what we had been doing at home to “the real world.”
We’ve both come a long way from “I don’t want to take deep breaths!”
This video is shared with Elli’s permission.