It’s that time of the year already when summer has come to an end and the new school year is about to or has already begun. That means getting back into the daily routine and to busy schedules, back to studying, homework, and extra-curricular activities, back to traffic, long days at work, and seemingly endless household chores. Along with the change in routine from summer to fall comes shorter days, less time for fun and leisure, greater demands and deadlines to meet, and unfortunately, more stress (which can be both good and bad). Sometimes it may seem as if there is so much happening and at such a fast pace that one barely has a free moment to slow down and just BE. Moreover, parents and children can become so wrapped up in their own schedules and activities that there is little time to spend together and to connect with one another or as a family.
It is true that “Such Is Life” and “How IT Is” but that does not mean there is nothing we can do to carve out just a few minutes a day to break free of the humdrum of the daily routine and to create new habits that are actually good for you!
A fun and beneficial way to reconnect and to stop and smell the roses is to take on the 5-minute mindfulness challenge with your child or teen. And if five minutes seems too difficult to commit to right now, you can also make it a 2-minute daily mindfulness challenge.
What Is the 5-Minute Mindfulness Challenge?
The purpose is to set aside five minutes a day with your child and/or your teen to meditate or focus and attend to the present moment. The challenge is to BE together in the here and now, while putting aside whatever is on both of your To-Do lists.
There are different ways to do this mindfulness challenge. Here is one idea. You can spend the time with your older child or teen focusing on your breathing. Focus on your breath as you breathe in through your nose and as you exhale through your nose. Pay attention to how each breath feels in your body with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the rise and fall of your chest. Focus on the coolness of the air below your nose as you breathe in and the warmth of the air as you breathe out. Notice when your mind starts to wander and then gently bring your attention back to the breath. To help guide you at the beginning, feel free to count the breaths in your head (e.g., “breathing in 1, breathing out 1”, “breathing in 2, breathing out 2” and continue to 10 and then repeat). You can also experiment with playing relaxing sounds in the background and/or focusing on a burning candle.
With your younger child, you may want to add a visual aid to this challenge. Consider using a snow globe. Shake the globe and then together watch the little flakes of plastic or glitter land to the bottom. Encourage your child to keep focusing until every last bit settles. Remember to breathe in and out as you engage in this activity.
Similarly, with your younger child you can turn over an hour glass or sand clock and watch the grains of sand fall down from the top to the bottom.
How to Get Started?
Find a regular time in the day that could work for you and your child or teen. Perhaps choose a time after school, before or after dinner, or right before bed. Try to commit together to keeping that “appointment” with each other on a daily basis. Consider posting a chart or note on the fridge to remind both of you of the challenge.
Another option is to use the Lift App on your cell phone. I’ve started a Goal called “5 Min Mindfulness Challenge” which you can join by downloading the App. If we commit to the challenge together, we will increase our likelihood of achieving a regular mindfulness practice.
At the end of the 2-minute or 5-minute challenge with your child or teen, briefly share how the practice went and what was easy or difficult for you. Discuss any changes or new ideas you may want to try for the next time.
Will You Accept the Mindfulness Challenge?
I hope you will join me in doing the mindfulness challenge whether on your own or with your child or teen. Why not try the 2-minute or 5-minute challenge for a few weeks or for the next month and then let me know how it goes.
By the way, there are many empirically-validated benefits to mindfulness including improved attention, decreased stress and anxiety, improved overall mood, as well as actual positive changes in various regions of the brain due to neuroplasticity!
As always I welcome your thoughts, comments, and feedback.
P.S. A great resource I’ve come across to teach mindfulness to children is called Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel. The book comes with a CD with guided exercises voiced by Myla Kabat-Zinn. I highly recommend it!
Image at top left courtesy of pixbox77 / freedigitalphotos.net
Image at middle right courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net
Image at middle left courtesy of Master isolated images / freedigitalphotos.net
Images at bottom right courtesy of digitalart / freedigitalphotos.net