Mindful Adults, Mindful Kids:
Planting Seeds in the Garden of Well-Being
Just one breath with awareness can transform any moment.
Giving kids and teens the gift of mindfulness is like planting seeds in a garden. Pause, breathe, notice, return – these are quiet actions that cultivate conditions for growth and well-being.
Mindfulness starts with us and our own practices. Whatever our role in kids’ lives – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, healthcare professionals – mindfulness creates space for well-being and compassion, and is a model for young people.
Mindfulness is a robust topic of scientific inquiry. Strong evidence links mindfulness with positive emotion, enhanced life satisfaction, compassion, and overall wellbeing. Mindfulness practice can help reduce risk for illness and stimulate physical and emotional health (Goleman and Davidson, 2017; Willard, 2016).
Psychologist Lea Waters offers several benefits of mindful parenting (2017). Gains can include improved parenting in the moment; modeling effective ways to deal with relational conflicts and stressful situations; and mindful parents coaching their kids to become more mindful.
5 Ideas to Plant the Seeds of Mindfulness
If we think mindfulness is a good idea, it’s helpful to understand that cultivating the practice begins with us. When we engage in mindfulness, we offer a model for young folks that can help them become motivated to try it.
1. S.T.O.P. – This easy acronym is a reminder to plant daily mindful moments (Goldstein, 2013).
- Take a Breath
- Observe (notice feelings, thoughts, sensations – non-judgmentally)
STOP can be practiced within ordinary activities. For example: morning awakening; while tooth-brushing; walking to the kitchen for breakfast; during a break at work or recess; before a meal; in bed at night.
2. Find a Quiet Place
Our world is busy and we can forget to pause. Find a quiet space for brief moments to sit with a child to read a book, share a conversation, express love and gratitude, or say a prayer.
3. Mindful Eating
Adding a moment of mindful attention to eating can transform the experience. Pause to notice what you’re eating. Pause to approach the food as a new experience. Pause to express gratitude before eating.
You can choose to do most anything mindfully. Stop. Take a Breath. Observe – pay attention to the experience of that moment. Proceed.
For example: As a family, pause momentarily when sitting down for dinner. “Let’s wait a moment and just take a breath. Let’s each share one thing we are thankful for today – even a word will do. OK, let’s eat this great food!”
4. The 3 R’s offer a simple process and language for mindfulness when your mind wanders (Willard, 2018).
- REST your awareness – Use an “anchor” to help you continue to pay attention. Examples of anchors include: the breath (“I am breathing in, I am breathing out”); a word; sounds you’re listening to, such as quiet music, ocean waves, the traffic.
- RECOGNIZE when (and where) your mind and thoughts wander.
- RETURN to your anchor when you notice yourself wandering. Repeat this process as many times as needed.
5. Plant Seeds to Nurture the Garden of Well-Being – Consider these self-inquiries:
- How can you incorporate a few moments of mindfulness in your day?
- If you already practice mindfulness, how can you add a bit more?
- How can you share moments of mindfulness with kids in your life?
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way, and not starting.”
– The Buddha
Learn More with these Mindfulness Resources:
- Goldstein, E. (2013). Stressing out? S.T.O.P.
- Goleman D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered Traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. New York, NY: Avery.
- Kabat-Zinn ( 2012). Mindfulness for beginners: reclaiming the present moment – and your life. Sounds True. CO.
- Niemiec, R.M. (2014). Mindfulness & character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.
- Waters, L. (2017). How the new science of strength-based parenting can help your child and your teen to flourish. Penguin Random House, New York, NY.
- Willard, C. (2016). Growing up mindful. Essential practices to help children, teens, and families find balance, calm, and resilience. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
How Can Coaching with Ilene Help You Call Yourself to Action?
Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD is a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator. Ilene has dedicated much of her career to the personal and professional development and integrative well-being of others. As a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator, she inspires others to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online and access free resources at http://ileneberns-zare.com.
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