Expert / 15 May, 2018 / My Baba

The importance of practising mindfulness with your children

Buddhify creator Rohan Gunatillake knows the importance of mindfulness. He also knows the seeming impossibility of finding a spare moment when you’re running a business and being the parent of a young child. The man behind the meditation and mindfulness app built Buddhify with a view to helping people work through and reduce the stresses of daily life. What he found was that parents, in using the app to help themselves relax, were involving their children in the guided Buddhify meditation sessions too.

The app works as a wheel, where you can choose from a range of meditations depending on how you’re feeling and what you’re doing. You choose the meditation that works for you and decide on the length most suitable. Next, Buddhify created a wheel for children’s meditation. “Buddhify kids has sixty meditations made by some of the very best teachers working in mindfulness for young people today,” explains Rohan. “There are different categories such as Going to Sleep, Calming Down, Feeling Better and Growing Wisdom.”

In creating the children’s wheel, the Buddhify team had to understand the stresses that affect both parents and children in everyday life, as well as how parents and children work independently and together. Here, founder Rohan talks us through the research into stress and mindfulness in parents and children he encountered along the way.

How do parents experience stress with children?

While there might be a thousand things which trigger an actual stressful episode between parents and children, deep down the cause tends to be the fact that, what your child is doing isn’t what you want them to be doing. The most powerful way to deal with this is to let go of what you want and instead take your child’s perspective – even if just for a moment. Connecting with your child in this way not only makes them feel more comfortable, it also gives you some breathing room to respond to the situation rather than just blindly react.

Is this different for the ages of children? How does stress in babies differ and how do you deal with this?

From my experience the main differences are, having less information from how they are feeling and sleep deprivation! Our son didn’t sleep particularly well for two years and that level of sleep deprivation can really exacerbate things. Looking after yourself can feel like something that goes out the window during this point, but it’s important, so is good communication with your partner – make sure you don’t take it out on each other!

What is the best way and the best age to introduce your children to meditation?

The best way to get kids interested is to do it yourself. Children love copying what you do. Buddhify kids content is designed to be done by you and your child together – so that it is playful and quick. Make it a positive experience, not about fixing any problems, but about building positive qualities. I’ve started teaching my two-year-old but typically specialists in kids’ mindfulness tend to suggest from six years old. We’ve found that children find it natural, they are already full of curiosity and know what it is to be present. In fact, it’s often said that children are easier to teach than adults since they lack the scepticism and ingrained habits that many of us have

Practical things you can do as a parent

  • Watch out for the early warning signs of stress. A good way to do this is to learn your ‘stress signature’ – the parts of your body which typically tense up when you get stressed. For me it’s my hands and my jaw – when I notice them starting to tighten, by intentionally relaxing them, I can head off stress building up too much.
  • A powerful technique is to name our emotions as they happen: this is anger, this is worry, this is doubt and so on. The more aware we are of the state of our mind and our patterns, the less power they have over us
  • Stress is only part of what it is to be a parent, but of course, there is also lots of delight. One great way to reduce stress is to really soak in the ‘lovely’ when it happens, then we can completely change our relationship to parenting to be something primarily of joy, rather than of challenge.

What other ideas about parents/children meditation do you have that would be interesting to hear about?

If mindfulness tells us anything, it’s that the quality and nature of our attention has a direct impact on our wellbeing – so model the behaviour you want to see in your child. Give them your full attention, avoid getting stuck in screens, be with them in the way you want them to be with others. It’s so clear as a parent that everything you do in some way trains them, so take that on board.

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