Hi wonderful humans. I hope you're having a tremendous week. As a new mama I'm incredibly curious about mindful parenting, are you? I have no doubt that practicing mindfulness and mindful parenting have many differences but are equally influential when implemented in our home lives. It may be wishful thinking, but I pray for the day that all our education systems also include mindful practices into the curriculum. Wouldn't that be great for our children and our educators?
From the time an infant is one month old they start to make facial expressions and possibly even mimic some of their parents gestures. These first years of a child’s life are crucial for setting up a strong foundation for learning, relationships and mental health. As we stick out our tongues, play patty-cake and comfort with hugs and kisses, we quickly learn how babies and children are prone to copying behaviors they see. As the various developmental stages take shape, involving them them with things like yoga and meditation can help them deeply bond, sleep better, grow stronger, relieve fussiness, learn self-regulation, increase body awareness and promote neuromuscular development… just to touch on a few. Parents creating this space for themselves propels curiosity. Our little ones’ abilities to absorb impressions are rapid and undeniable so I implore us to experiment as early as we can. Although much of our information is young and anecdotal, I'm intrigued that research is revealing trends and further investigation is being prompted on how effective meditation and mindful practices are for our youth.
In many cases when a woman becomes pregnant, a mindful yoga practice is being recommended by doctors encouraging them to maintain a calm, healthy pregnancy. Various stressors, if become constant, may negatively affect a growing fetus so it’s no surprise parents are interested in learning how to reduce unhealthy stress and use coping mechanisms, like meditation and yoga, to assist in stress management. Throughout my pregnancy I remained consistent with my meditation practice often using the Chopra Center meditations as a guide. I truly believe that even now with our baby girl only being ten months old she recognizes the voices and has an understanding that it’s a relaxing time not just for mommy and daddy but for her as well. I have found in my own struggles with being up several times a night to breastfeed that using an uplifting mantra helps me create inner peace, stay relaxed and I easily fall back asleep after she’s done feeding. I can’t help but hope this affects her positively as well. She too has been observing and involved with my yoga practice since the day she’s arrived. I’ve watched her press into downward dog long before she could even crawl. She loves to be involved, crawling all around my mat and watches as I breathe and move through postures. My positive experience leads me to believe that it’s beneficial to weave these practices in as early as you get to hear a heartbeat.
Children are showing signs of anxiety, restlessness and stress earlier and being diagnosed with things like ADHD before the age of six. Parents in-turn have a perpetual concern about children’s attention. We have an opportunity to shift concern into action by showing and teaching mindfulness early on. The amount of interest being displayed with your child in the action you are promoting will be your best guide. While there isn’t a distinct age said to begin teaching meditation it’s been recommended by experts to start off short and simple. Perhaps trying one min of meditation per year of age. After working with children in a theater camp, ages four and up, I was shocked and thrilled to see how many knew what yoga and meditation was and were able to lay quietly as we practiced meditation in savasana at the end of our yoga session all together. With that said it’s important to pay attention to your child’s nature and temperament so it may take some trial and error to find the structure that feels good.
There are a variety of creative ways to invite your children into a calming mindful space that can lead to an ongoing meditation practice. Mindfulness is not simply sitting perfectly still; music and movement often make ideal mindfulness entry points as well. Whether it be creating a special space in your home, using things like a candle flame to focus on, encouraging imagination with colors and visualizing or saying mantras with simple breathing exercises, allow your child to partake in the idea fun and help lead the way to mindfulness. We can watch them evolve into healthy adults by offering them simple tools now and most importantly, leading by example. Here are some wonderful resources I’ve explored with my youth yoga students and baby girl and simply love.
Meddy Teddy is a 100% posable bear who practices yoga and meditation. Meddy can be a tool and a buddy as you bring awareness into how to sit or lay comfortably to meditate. His eyes are closed to remind us how to turn inward to ourselves as we find our breath to feel grounded and calm.
My Light Shines Bright is The Chopra Centers first guided meditation app for kids age 8-12. The 22 guided meditations are geared toward building confidence, encouraging good sleep, creativity, and deep connection.
Itsy Bitsy Yoga is a wonderful book by Helen Garabedian that introduces parents and babies to the many ways of bonding together and improving health. A delightful guide to introducing mindful techniques as early as birth.
Breathing Buddies Best-selling author Daniel Goleman shares such a sweet and simple way he observed children learning to use their breath and strengthen their focus in a classroom setting. After finding a comfortable place to stretch out they are to put their stuffed animal on their belly and count as they breathe in 1,2,3 and out 1,2,3, watching their toy move up and down.
I also weighed in on this topic with one of my favorite wellness platforms MindBodyGreen so please feel free to read more on kids and meditation there.
Thank you guys for stopping by! Would love to hear from you especially if you have kids and have insight on what’s working and not working for you! Wishing us all the very best as we navigate our way into mindful parenting.