Practice mindful breathing.
Bring to your child’s attention how inhaling feels like filling up a balloon in your belly, and slowly exhaling to deflate the balloon. You can do this lying down, with a stuffed toy on the belly or even a train or any vehicle with wheels to show visually the rising and falling. Practice counting the slow inhales and exhales, first ones loudly, and then silently in our mind.
2. Present, mindful eating
Perfect for toddlers who eat painstakingly slow. Bring to their attention the appearance of the food, the taste and texture, and the sensation. Eating is one of the many wonderful things that deserve sweet, mindful time.
3. Pause and be present
Developing interoceptive awareness is key. It’s what is increasingly being known as the eighth sense- understanding and feeling what’s going on inside our body- feeling hungry, thirsty, hot or cold, feverish, etc.
Instead of readily saying, “Put on your jacket. It’s cold,” ask your child if she feels cold and give her the autonomy to choose. Here, we also advocate eating without watching, as well as against the round-the-clock giving of milk to toddlers. They must know the feeling of fullness, and be able to express it.
4. Let our child take the lead
Whether it is floor play, or a walk in the park, follow your child’s pace. So long as it is safe, lean in on her behavior, and let her take the lead. Children are instinctively mindful so they are the best teachers! I am sure you’ve seen how much time they take to eat, to put on their shoes, to pack away, to get from Point A to Point B!
5. Model it
A lot of families I’ve worked with find this to be the most difficult. But as I always say, if we want big changes, we start with ourselves!
One helpful way is to describe your own process of experiencing an emotion, say, you feel angry. Talk about it; label the emotion. Say what triggered it, and HOW you feel (my head is hurting too much; I am so frustrated when I ….). And then say how you overcame it or some useful pep talk you told yourself.
With tantrums and meltdowns, one of the best ways is to reframe. Reframe that kids ARE having a hard time, instead of giving US a hard time; that they may be experiencing that big, scary emotion (a huge, uncontrollable want for that toy, or being unable to express discomfort in their stomach, or painful waiting) for the first time and they need us to be the calm in their storm. And as all new things are learned in a calm state, so it is a must for us to wait for the cries to die down and wait for the storm to pass.
Most importantly, we need to make time for self-care. We cannot let our circumstances determine how we respond to our children. The ability to care for our child lies mainly on self-care.
All of these are essential, as we want to equip our children to better understand their emotions. When we infuse our lives with present mindfulness, our children will be able to handle stressful situations in the future.
So shall we?
With you in present parenting,