The snow days when kids are home from school are a mixed bag for many parents. On the one hand, it’s always great to break up routines and not have to get children up and out to school on a strict schedule. On the other hand, several days at home without a routine can be very stressful, especially when parents are using up their precious vacation days and/or may be trying to work from home while managing their bored kids.
We know that children absorb the stress of the adults in their lives so that stressed out parents can unintentionally create stressed out kids. At those times when we are at the “end of our rope”, the last thing we want is for our kids to get more dysregulated. Mindfulness is a very effective self-care strategy to help us control our stressed out thoughts and responses.
Being mindful does not mean that you have to DO anything or believe in anything. It means that you simply notice, in each moment, where you are, what is happening and how you are responding. What we learn by cultivating mindfulness is that the actual present moment is often less stressful than focusing on what happened in the past or may happen in the future. Mindfulness is not about believing in anything, meditating for hours, or blocking out thoughts. Practicing mindfulness simply involves noticing our thoughts and coming back to the present moment and what is actually happening.
In the book, Child’s Mind, Christopher Willard lists several very helpful images that help keep us from getting stuck on thoughts about the past or the future that cause us anxiety, worry and regret.
- Sitting by a stream and watching thoughts carried gently downstream on leaves or boats.
- Watching a spring or fountain bubble up with our thoughts trickling away.
- Noticing our thoughts being carried past on a conveyer belt or marked on signs carried by marchers in a parade.
- Observing our thoughts as autumn leaves landing softly on an empty and accepting blanket.
- Following the bouncing ball of thoughts or perceptions as in an old TV sing-along.
- Being aware of our thoughts as clouds, forming and dissolving and reforming in the sky and then blowing away.
- Sitting on a train looking out the window at what the scenery brings (rather than climbing out each time you see something interesting).
- Erasing a chalkboard or white board of thoughts and wiping it clean.
- Imagine shaking a snow globe that then slowly becomes totally still when you stop shaking it.
Willard also reminds us about all the opportunities in our daily lives to practice mindfulness:
- When we are waiting at red lights or stop signs, or for our computer to boot up, or water to boil, or coffee to brew.
- When we hear a phone ringing, or walk up or down the stairs.
- Watching a subway pulling into the station.
- Picking up an object like a toothbrush or a mug.
- Turning on a faucet.
- Noticing the space before checking text messages or email.
The trick is to let thoughts that rush in float past us without getting stuck on any particular thought, and recognizing that the nature of our busy minds means that we will have to remember, over and over again, to come back to the present, to our bodies, to the sounds in the room and to our breath.
Please contact Erica Moltz, Director of the Counseling Center if you are interested in counseling, phone coaching or simply talking more about mindfulness, 301 422 5101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.