For many of us, being constantly busy means we’re also constantly a little stressed. With deadlines to be met at work, bills to be paid and dinners to be put on the table, it can sometimes feel like our days rush by without us even noticing what’s really happening. And our children are feeling the effects of our busy lives too. Running from school to after school activities, sports and playdates — our children’s lives are sometimes as busy as, or busier than, our own!
So what can we do to bring a sense of peace and calm into our family homes? Perhaps meditating as a family unit could be the answer. That’s why Medibank is proud to be the Official Health Partner of Smiling Mind, a not-for-profit committed to improving the mental health of young Australians through the practice of mindful meditation.
Why meditate as a family?
Everyone wants the best for their children, for them to live long, healthy and happy lives. As parents, one of the best skills we can teach our children is how to manage their feelings and responses to the stressors and busyness of everyday life.
Our children learn a lot about life in the home, by observing and listening. And a calm home life can have a positive effect on the mental health of our children. By setting an example of living mindfully and being a positive role model for your child in the home, they will be able to learn the skills of mindfulness in their own unique way. But being mindful when life is busy and stressful is often easier said than done. That’s why practising mindfulness meditation as a family is a great way to slow things down, even just a little.
Practising mindfulness as a family is a great way to spend quality time together, and learning a new skill with others may help us to stay committed. Mindfulness encourages us to spend more time in the present moment, with openness, curiosity and without judgement. It also helps to strengthen our mind’s ability to focus and pay attention. This kind of attitude and outlook on life is integral in creating a calm, happy environment for children to grow.
How to create a mindful home
There are some small key changes you can make that will encourage mindfulness in the home.
When it comes to kids, it’s important to remember: ‘monkey see, monkey do’. Start by establishing a meditation routine for yourself, and let your children watch what you do. After some time, encourage them to join you as you sit quietly for just a couple of minutes a day.
Once the children are ready to join in, a great place to start could be the Smiling Mind Mindfully Together program, tailored specifically for families to do together. In this program, you’ll find guided meditations like ‘Family Digital Detox’, ‘Getting Ready for Bed’, and ‘Gratitude and Joy’.
Sometimes, sitting down for a meal, or an afternoon snack is one of the only times everyone in the family is able to be together. Why not try to practice mindful eating? Encourage your children to really engage their senses, and ask them to notice how their food looks, smells and tastes. You could even ask them where they think the food came from, and how it got to be in front of them. This is a great tool to encourage feelings of gratitude.
What went well and why
Another option could be asking your kids to name something that went well for them that day and why. It's always a great discussion point for any family. Use your mealtime to be present with each other and connect — without the distractions of phones or the TV.
Many of us are familiar with the after-effects of a bad night’s sleep; you may be irritable, sluggish and struggle to focus. In children, we often see the same effects, coupled with hyperactivity due to overtiredness. A brief, guided bedtime meditation is a great way to encourage a state of calm before sleeping.
It might be a cliche, but being mindfully aware really encourages us to ‘stop and smell the roses’. This attitude and way of being present in the moment can help us to see things with curiosity, openness and without judgement. Start small: spend some time in your garden or a park with your kids and just pay attention to what you see around you.
Multitasking is the opposite of mindfulness. While you may think that multitasking makes you more efficient this is in fact a myth. Tasks actually take longer and we often end up more fatigued and stressed when trying to do multiple things at once. Taking a more mindful approach when you're with your children by giving them your full attention as much as possible when they speak to you will help your child learn to offer the same respectful attention to others.
To access all free content within the Smiling Mind Family Program, created in collaboration with Medibank, download the Smiling Mind app today (available on iOS and Android) and navigate to Family Program under All Programs.