Spring Cleaning: For the Parent and Child Alike!
By Meisner, ERG Coach
Happy Spring, everyone! We have finally reached the point in the year where going outside no longer makes us cringe. With the onset of beautiful weather, we often find new reason to get happy and healthy. Every year we clean out our closets and our cabinets, but what about our brains? It is possible that though we benefit from de-cluttering our homes, we are unaware of the potential that is waiting to be dusted off within our minds. It is even more likely that our children, who love a messy room, will find even less value in a “clean brain.” Stress becomes a part of us, as do our piles of papers. When we have downtime, we feel obligated to become busy; we feel guilty for taking a quiet hour to watch t.v. instead of answering emails. Our kids begin preparing for finals, taking back on the pressure that has just dissipated from midterms! So how can we cleanse ourselves, after our closets are clean?
Mindfulness. To be mindful is to be present, and to call upon reasoning for your own actions. It is to connect your mind and body to your emotions that occurs alongside these actions, and as a result, create a new awareness in everything that you do.
Many adults are catching on to the wonder that is “mindfulness,” whether it be in the form of solid emotional meditation, physical meditations like yoga, or reflection through journals. However, similar and modified practices can be equally helpful to our kids, those who suffer from attention problems, the inability to execute tasks successfully, and especially those who have little control over emotional responses. These are the kids who come home from school repeatedly with notes in their folders about incomplete work, about talking too much, etc.; and while it seems like an impossible task to ask this child to be mindful, this is a process that can be built up over time.
Here’s a mindfulness challenge! Practice these steps alongside your struggling child.
1. Make your to-do lists.
2. Begin your list while communicating. If your buddy has trouble starting, ask them which tasks seems easiest and why. Which tasks seems the most difficult? Why? Work and talk.
3. Create an empty space in your mind with each task that is completed or each room that is cleaned.
4. While you are actively making space, ask yourself how you feel. Have a conversation with yourself about your intentions.
4. After a few tasks, reflect quietly on the spaces, on the things you’ve completed. Ask your child about their small accomplishments. How do they feel? (They will take more time than you on tasks. This is okay. The tasks are not the main goal, but the thoughts.)
5. Talk with your child about being “present” in their actions. Cleaning is frustrating? Or having so many items is overwhelming? In this calm state, it may be unbelievably easy to get your non-talker or your too-much-talker to open up about real things, such as how it really feels when their teacher yells at them or why they don’t do their homework. If it isn’t at first, have no fear.
6. Tell your child something you like about them. Then something you like about yourself!
Tasks have been completed, and now there is a calmness with which you can proceed as you please. These steps can be changed in an infinite amount of ways. The purpose is to create an initial routine that after just a few weeks, instills in our brains the ability to breathe, make space, create clarity, and reflect. The routine will dissipate, but the intentions will remain. The impulsive child, with practice, may begin to think before they speak or react violently to others. The chaotic parent, with as much practice, may begin to be more present at dinner or at soccer games. Mindfulness creates a sense of tangibility when we feel out of control; it is planning without planning, in that it becomes completely natural and immediate. You learn about yourself when you have the peace to do so. So, for all of you seeking clarity, there is hope! Explore mindfulness in its varied forms. I wish you a happy and healthy Spring!