I am about half-committed to mindfulness. I live in full enjoyment of my kids, my wife and nature. I love adventures, big and small, like exploring our local river for the 100th time, getting all dirty and throwing the kids and the dog in the bath immediately upon returning home. When it comes to joy, I can sink in. I treasure and consume the smiles on little faces. My ears are massaged with their giggles. My spirit is refreshed.
I am blessed that my kids equally delight in these moments. We are a family that is blessed with a lot of good times. We spend most of every weekend in nature, find ample opportunities to visit the library, and walk the neighborhood “choose your own adventure” style. The little things are enough quite often.
As a family, we’ve got the “sinking in” thing down, as long as what we’re sinking into is a feeling we want to be having.
We don’t do as well with fear, anger and sadness. We rush through them, react to them, try to comfort them away (as quickly as possible), rationalize how unnecessary they are in the current situation. Basically, we do it all wrong. Perhaps a bit ironic for two social worker moms, but there it is.
When we talk about it, my wife and I will acknowledge that anger in our kids, in particular, triggers our own. For me, it’s about my own righteous indignation. “How DARE you feel angry about that, do you know that when I was a kid….” Okay, so I don’t say the sentence out loud, but I think it, loudly.
Truthfully, as children we weren’t allowed our feelings. We were allowed some: joy, appreciation, contentment. We were not allowed any of the “unwanted” feelings: anger, sadness, grief, fear, loss, disappointment. Perhaps it was leftovers from the “children are to be seen and not heard” generation, perhaps it was more, but regardless, my parents could not cope with my feelings and so didn’t allow them. I am now finding that allowing my children to have their feelings is a lot harder than I imagined. This is especially true if I feel their feelings are directed towards me or my wife.
What’s the answer? I actually have no idea. As a person who only sinks into joy and delight with ease, but fights myself to allow anything else, it seems I need to start with me. I’ve worked to develop mantras to normalize what I feel and not judge myself, “Even though I feel scared and overwhelmed, I fully and completely accept myself.” “Even though this task freaks me out, I am enough and I can get through this.” Notice I am, at least, acknowledging the feeling. This is progress.
We’re also working to help our kids label theirs, and our daughter is a great help with that. At least five times a day we hear, “What are you feeling?” We try to remind her that even if we’re frustrated, sad, angry or scared we still love her to pieces, that all shall be well, that feelings are okay (then we try to believe what we’ve just said.)
We are also beginning to explore other mindfulness practices for our kids, or ones we can do as a family. Part of our daughter’s education plan includes morning Yoga, so we try to prompt her to teach us a Yoga move or two, or remind her to take deep breaths. Often that’ll earn us a “No deep breaths,” but we try. With our son we try to simply introduce down/quiet time, since he seems to have two gears: “full speed” and “coma.”
These moms are open to tips, and until we know the way, my only wisdom is to ask that we explore those emotionally raw, triggered places with compassion, and perhaps grant a little affirmation to normalize it. After all, we can’t teach what we don’t know, right? For a quick link with a couple of cool exercises created for kids, take a look at Mindfulness for Children, here.