Mindfulness can feel like a big mountain to climb, then you throw kids in the mix and it seems like a lofty goal: a far-and-away idea that is less than possible. However, the research doesn’t lie - mindfulness and meditation combat stress, poor moods and anxiety. On the flip side, it fosters compassion for others, self-compassion, improved focus and moods - even combats depression. It can often impact relationships, chronic disease, weight loss, physical pain and improve our sleep! Meditation has even been found to shift the outcome of breast cancer. Hope!
Any kiddos out there struggling to sleep?
Rewiring our brains is possible and happens through activities like mindfulness, meditation and affirmations. It’s these exercises for the mind that build up and nourish positive pathways for traits like focus and decision making to improve - even sleep! While we add in the good and fortify the positive, less positive pathways diminish - resulting in less fear and stress.
Sounds great for Mommy, but kiddos, too?
While we don’t typically think of children as experiencing stress or battling depression and anxiety, they do! As they develop, many ordinary things happen that they don’t yet have the tools to understand or respond to. Then there are the bigger road bumps like bullying, mental health issues (ADHD, ADD, ASD etc.), divorce, death, loss, stress in the home or even interacting with their peers who experience these complications in life - then these peers act out because of the experiences they can’t understand in their lives and our kids struggle secondarily.
Our sweet family has weathered the above list and then some. What started as a breath-work practice for me targeted at retraining my body that experienced abuse - turned into meditation, free-writing and lots of affirmations to combat my past reality triggering my present physical body. When I saw the shift in my racing heart and reeling mind that was often triggered by the simple presence of a male, I was intrigued to help my boys.
We began with simple, general affirmations, developed some specifically to their trials and picked up some from a favorite teacher. Cal recently recited a few of his favorite lines when he faced a struggle and Tru reminded himself that “I did hard things! I can do what I put my mind to!” on the ride home after a tricky swim lesson.
So how do we integrate affirmations and mindfulness into life with a 2 and 5-year-old?
Diligence counts here - so do car rides. When I find there’s a lull in the play or the car has grown quiet, I’ll simple tell the boys we’re gonna take a couple breaths together. If they’re up I’ll bring them in by making it a game - who can breathe in the loudest? who can exhale the longest? When they’re down I’ll match their mood and quietly suggest we take some strong breaths together and remember things we’re great at! They’ll usually wind down after 3 breaths or get excited to particiapte and I’ll simply make a statement and ask them to repeat it.
ME: “I have good things to say!” Say it back to Momma?
BOYS: “I have good things to say.”
ME: “YES you do! I love the things you have to say; I have good things to say!”
BOYS: “I have good things to say.”
Sometimes I’ll move right into another affirmation, or Tru will ask a question about something he recently said that provoked response in another. Often I’ll move to a building affirmation - something that the child specifically needs to hear or will combat a harmful situation they’re enduring.
ME: “No one is more important than me, and I am no more important than anyone else. Can you say that long one?”
BOYS: “No one is more important than me, and I am no more important than anyone else.”
ME: “OH WOW, you can even remember long ones! That’s right - no one is more important, and we all listen to others speak. Can you pick your favorite learning to tell to me?”
BOYS: “I have good things to say and I listen to people?”
ME: “Ah, that’s so good and true boys. I know you treat others with respect, no matter who they are.”
At this point, they’ll either repeat some version of what I’ve said or wander off in to their own play or minds. Both are fine with me. If they’re still focused, we’ll continue with a couple more or I’ll end it by thanking them for talking about important things with me.
Little by little, these mini-meditations have increased the boys’ conversational focus, have brought out scary issues they’d not brought up on their own and has increased their confidence in the face of fear. Sometimes one boy won’t participate or will treat them as silly. Sometimes they’re simple and combat discipline issues - “I don’t bite anyone. I bite my food.” They also work wonders at bedtime, particularly if I’m planting them in the day. “I am full from my good day and now I’ll let my body rest!”
Daily, I’m still planting them - like we do scripture songs and immediate lessons - into their little hearts and minds, because those things surface when life is scary, something is hard or there is a challenge with a friend and no adult around to help make sense of it. Equipping our kids to handle the stressors, traumas and suffering we all experience can be such a gift to them - and a gift to the world if we focus some of our affirmations around the treatment and respect of others.
Here’s a growing list of my favorite affirmations for kids (and Mommas!) -would love to hear yours and your experiences in the comments!
I am smart.
I am accepted.
I am loved. Jesus loves me. He delights in me.
My mom delights in me. My mom loves me.
No matter what's going on in my life, I love myself...UNCONDITIONALLY.
No one is more important than me, and I am no more important than anyone else.
I am funny.
I am brave. God gives me courage!
I have good things to say.
I am a friendly guy.
I am not intimidated because I am bold and full of courage.
I make wise decisions that bring health and life.
I make wise choices.
I am great at my number one job to listen and obey - I listen and obey my mom. Then I can learn to listen and obey God.
I have a strong mind that is alert and receptive.
I do ALL things with excellence.
I give my best.
I accomplish whatever I put my mind to if I put in the effort.
I prosper in all things.
I take set backs as temporary and bounce back quickly.
I control my attitudes and my emotions because I control my thoughts.
I can change my mind with truth. ( I renew my thoughts to the truth of Gods word, so I can renew my feelings, emotions and attitudes)
I choose my attitude.
I can manage what I’ve been given, because all things work together for my good.
I expect to do well because I am prepared, I am able and I will do my best.
I can learn.
I can try new things.
I show love to everyone I meet.
God has not given me a spirit of fear. God has given me a spirit of power! God has given me a spirit of love! God has given me a sound mind and a spirit to use it with!
I do not fear be because I am accepted
I do not fear because I am loved
Perfect love casts out fear
I am found in Perfect Love because God is love and God lives in me. Love lives in me.
God has not given me a spirit of fear but of Power, Love and a Sound Mind.
Headspace. (2019) https://www.headspace.com/science/meditation-benefits
Mayer, B., Polak MG, Remmerswaal D. (2019) Mindfullness, Interpretation Bias, and Levels of Anxiety and Depression: Two Meditation Studies. doi:10.1007/s12671-018-0946-8
Rosen, K. D., Paniagua, S. M., Kazanis, W., Jones, S., & Potter, J. S. (2018). Quality of Life Among Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: A Randomized Waitlist Controlled Trial of Commercially Available Mobile App-Delivered Mindfulness Training. Psycho-Oncology. doi:10.1002/pon.4764