Cultivating mindfulness is clearly a concept all of us want to improve while parenting. Good news is there are ways to incorporate strategies that are mindful in every day activities; being mindful might be easier than it seems and it’s less “way out there” and voo-doo than it seems at first glance, as well. The practice of mindfulness isn’t just for the kale-eating-uber-natural-super-zen families — this, in fact, is for us all.
Mindfulness: paying attention in this moment, non-judgmentally.
Honing focus and taking in the luxuries of raising children is a daily treasure. But living mindfully, intentionally, and without judgment — right in the present moment — is a simple concept and yet hard to practice every day. Luckily, I had Dr. Hilary Mead, a child clinical psychologist in Outpatient Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital talk through what we know about mindfulness in pediatrics and in children, how we use it specifically to boost mental health, and when it can be implemented easily into our everyday lives. She’s a pro at supporting children and teens, and their parents, in incorporating mindful practices into life.
There isn’t really failing at mindfulness — Dr. Hilary Mead
This podcast is really good. Really….I suggest you listen to Dr. Mead….I just loved what she taught me and how she guides mindfulness.
What Is Being Mindful?
- Being in the moment you’re in, aware, accepting and non-judgmental of yourself and relationships. So even if you’re in a moment you don’t like, you stay in the moment with your mind and thoughts.
- Being mindful can be observing when you’re having a thought that’s moving you away from the present and re-directing your thinking back to what you’re doing, who you are with, what you’re working on – Dr. Mead describes these as “anchors to the present moment.” We expect your mind to move about — you’re not failing when you do. Being aware of what’s happening is key.
- Being mindful can also be a freedom to express in a non-judgmental manner both positive and negative experiences and emotion. Mindfulness isn’t oppressing one idea for another but it’s also not critical, per se. It’s continually accepting. Think of it this way: if you’re thinking on a hard day filled with sadness you can feel akin to, “being sad is awful” — and this is a judgement. However, reframing this into presence and into a mindful practice you can move to, “I don’t like feeling sad” can help acknowledge where you are. Dr. Mead coaches that just doing more of this is being mindful.
Mindfulness For Children And Teen Health:
- Learning mindfulness techniques can enhance the tools children and teens have to cope with pain-related conditions or emotional, behavioral or mental conditions. This includes depression, panic disorders or trauma. Children can be trained by psychologists on using mindfulness to boost mood and improve coping. And gain a sense of control over their experiences with mental challenges.
- Teaching children and teens to observe their feelings and thoughts to try and help them slow down their feelings by observing their urges and thinking about them instead of immediately acting on them.
In preparing for this podcast, I reviewed the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report on mindfulness and fell in love with the idea that:
Children are very capable of engaging in self-care skills such as mind-body therapies, and there are many mind-body skills that kids and adolescents can learn and apply throughout life.
4 Quick Ideas For Mindfulness In Everyday Life:
- Formal Practice: The most popular/known are meditation and yoga. There’s also mindful eating (paying attention to what you’re eating when you’re eating it), mindful walking, mindfully playing with your child, even paying attention to your feet while waiting in line at grocery store. Plenty of apps and classes to join to help with this and I’d love if you’d share your recommendations in the comments.
- Meditation: Consider trying the app Zen Friend or Headspace and thinking on introducing meditation to your children. Length of time and frequency of meditating can vary for different people and different practices. But, pediatricians typically recommend:
- Preschool children: A few minutes per day.
- School-age children: 3 to 10 minutes twice a day.
- Teens and adults: 5 to 45 minutes per day or more based on preference.
- Label emotions you and your children and teen feel – research shows that being aware of how you’re feeling and acknowledging it, ideally without judgment, (like saying “I’m feeling sad”) helps in acceptance of the emotion and moving past it.
- Don’t judge your judgments. Start with that. Ohhhhh, how hard it is to avoid this!
I highly recommend taking some time to fully participate in listening to the podcast and practicing mindfulness with us. Then share it with your children and teens. Even if your mind wanders (mine did and DOES), Dr. Mead says it’s ok and that “wandering is a part of it. Mindfulness is knowing it happened.” There’s no failing when it comes to being mindful. How refreshing is that?
Dr. Mead Is Coming Back For More! We asked her to come back and record more on mindfulness and guided practices. Stay tuned (and follow the Seattle Mama Doc podcast so you don’t miss it) as there will be more from Dr. Mead in May! We’re planning a 5-day quick mindfulness series I’ll share here on the blog and in the podcast.
If you work at Seattle Children’s or live in Seattle, we’ll be highlighting some of the resources on mindfulness and behavioral health (I’ll be there!) at the Seattle Children’s Mental Wellness Fair:
- When: Thursday, May 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
- Where: Seattle Children’s Hospital – 4800 Sand Point Way NE in the Ocean Cafeteria (Level 7)
- What: FREE event bringing the community together to tackle the stigma of mental health and learn about the importance of mental wellness. More information.
- Clinical Psychology Review – Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies.
- HealthyChildren.org – Just Breathe: The Importance of Meditation Breaks for Kids.
- AAP: School-Based Mindfulness Instruction: An RCT.
- MindfulnessForTeens.com – Website catered to adolescents and teens.
- Apps to try (not all are free): Headspace, Insight Timer or ZenFriend.