Summer is a great time for everyone. If you have school-aged kids, it can go a few different ways. You can all be so busy that you hardly see each other, you can spend too much time together and fight the whole time or you can find a balance, choosing to spend the time together well and getting closer as a family. One way you can foster an environment where that happens is by promoting mindfulness.
Mindfulness, in this case, is “moment-to-moment awareness of your experience without judgment.” It sounds easy, but it takes practice. If you’re willing to put in the work, you can get some amazing results.
The easiest way to lose sight of your mindfulness goals is to get stressed out or overwhelmed. You need to be able to recognize that in yourself, and you need to help your kids see it in themselves as well. When it happens — and it will happen — have a plan. Try to understand what you can do to help yourself calm down. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids you’re putting yourself in time-out for five minutes to get your head on straight! Nothing will turn them around faster than hearing that.
Encourage a Mindful Time
You set a time for bed, a time for play and a time for exercise, so why not set a time for mindfulness? It doesn’t have to be set in stone or a straight-up meditation time. It can simply be a time where everyone stops and tries their best to communicate and get along. The Danish actually have a term for it – they call it hygge. This is the feeling of togetherness that happens when everyone cares more about sharing the love than getting their own grievances aired out.
Getting away from the TV, phone and internet in general is important. Studies are finding us to be more and more distracted, and the constant call of the smartphone is hard to resist. Your brain needs a break from it, and so do your kids. If you’re the kind of person who always has their phone, just leave it at home. Don’t worry about the pedometer. You’ll take those steps, whether they get counted or not.
Let Your Kids Be Reminders
Your kids aren’t totally off the beat. Sometimes they have good points and can help keep you in check just as much as you keep them in check.
Okay, maybe not just as much. But they can help! They can actually catch you sometimes when you’re about to lose it, or when you already have. If you find yourself yelling, having one of your children remind you, “No yelling — use your inside voice,” is a great reminder.
The issue, of course, is that we might automatically get defensive. Try not to. Remember that your child is just asking you to obey the same rules you ask of them. Instead, stop yelling. Take a minute if you need it. When you’re able, come out and thank your child for reminding you to be mindful. They’ll be happy to help again!
Engage With Them
Even with everything going on, there are still some things that just have to get done. Floors need vacuuming, dishes need washing and clothes need to be folded. Kids can help. Significant others can help too! There are two keys to making this work. First of all, you have to try not to micro-manage them. Show them how to do the task and trust that it will be accomplished.
The second one is that you have to listen to them. Even if you’re just hanging out at the park, listen. You might not think it’s too hot, but if your child says the playground equipment is hot, then listen! Even if the temperature is as low as 74 degrees, the equipment can still get too hot.
If they say, “Mommy look!” you can’t tell if it’s because they want to show you something neat or if one of their friends is doing something dangerous. So stop and try to listen. Make sure your kids know they can interrupt you for an emergency, and what an emergency is.
Have Mindful Family Meal Time
Dinner time is a great opportunity for the whole family to gather around and talk about their day. Or at least, it could be. Dinner is often a grab-and-go meal, especially when there’s soccer, karate, piano, plays, or whatever extracurricular activities the kids have going on. Dinner can be stretched out over a few hours, from five in the evening to nine at night when everyone is finally home.
Your schedule might not allow for dinner, lunch or breakfast together all the time. But do your best to make time for one of those meals a day. Everyone sits down and eats together, and you all make an effort to talk about your day. This might be weird at first, but it gets easier and more natural. Plus, it can allow you a little insight into your kids’ days, especially when they’re teenagers!
Encourage Mindful Discipline Techniques
Discipline isn’t always about punishment. In fact, it’s often ineffective in creating the behaviors you’d prefer. What discipline can be excellent at is teaching. Even young toddlers who don’t have a full capacity for speech yet can benefit from this. Instead of always saying “no,” step back. If there is no immediate danger, take a minute to look at the situation. Does your child need a boundary, some autonomy or some space?
Once you’ve determined what is needed, approach your child and talk to them. Explain which behaviors you don’t like and tell them your ideas for fixing it. “You’re running too far from me, so I’d like you to stay within these boundaries.” Or, “I see you having fun with your friends, but that kind of play can be dangerous around younger children. Is there another area you can go?”
If your child reacts poorly to this, then listen. Let them cry or yell or pout. Try to empathize and let them ride out the emotional process. Once they’re done, stick to the boundary and help them get to it.
Mindfulness isn’t always easy, and it’s not something that comes naturally in today’s fast-paced world. But practicing it and teaching it to your family can make a world of difference.