In the fast-paced, high-tech world that we live in today, it is easy to become overstimulated. While adults can realize this and simply “unplug” to wind down, children often become anxious and overwhelmed when they don’t understand why they feel the way they do. In Crouching Tigers, we call this overstimulated state “Monkey Mind” and offer a few ways for children to relax and regain their “Tiger Focus”. If you’re noticing stress, anxiety or outbursts with your child, they may be lacking in the mindfulness department. Your child may need you to direct them to mindful activities that release those overwhelming feelings that can cause undesirable behaviors. Here are some ways to create a mindful home environment.
Lead by example
When is the last time you unplugged and cleared your mind? A simple yet effective habit forming activity that I use is the stop watch on my phone. While it is a great tool for timing meditation (I go for at least 5 minutes a day), it is even better to time how long it has been since your last meditation. When I have those days where I say “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I focus and get anything done?” I look at that stop watch on my phone and quickly realize that the issue is the amount of time that has gone by since the last time I unplugged.
Encourage your child to focus on just one thing
While iPads are awesome tools for learning and entertainment, they can also be devices that allow and encourage the jumping from one activity to the next. This “multi-tasking” isn’t something that our brains are completely able to handle. Books are awesome things for children to focus on as they have a start and a finish and can completely absorb the attention of a child for a period of time. Books, when paired with asking questions, are also an amazing way to teach empathy to children. “How would you feel if you were that character?” is a great question to encourage empathy as well as to keep your child focused on the story.
A “tech-free” time, specifically before bedtime, is a great routine to offer your child every day. In order for a child’s mind to calm down to allow for peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, at least one hour away from a screen before bed is essential.
Encourage the focus on breath
If you are dealing with an outburst or an anxious child, the focus on breath is a great to calm your child down. “Put your hands on your belly like me. When we breathe, lets pretend there is a balloon in our bellies and when we breathe out, lets pretend all of the air is leaving the balloon” is a great exercise for younger children. For older children, try encouraging them to count their breath. “Lets try to count to 10 while we breathe. Breathe in 1, breathe out 2, until we get to 10. After we get to 10 lets start over”.
Remember that the time spent on mindful activities is time you are investing in great future behavior from your child.