How to learn from our children’s natural gift of living in the moment.

When the clock struck midnight and we ventured into the clean slate of 2017, many of us reflected on how we can better ourselves. One very simple resolution that struck a chord, was a mother’s pledge to delete social media apps from her phone so she could be more present. With a simple click of a wriggly cross, she would make a monumental difference to her ability to be present on a daily basis.

As parents we have the task of trying to meet our needs and that of our children simultaneously. This hefty feat is made even more difficult by modern technologies that act as constant temptations to multitask, by either checking our phone, email or other social media. Of course we are all entitled to a bit of our own time out and “argh, that online bill needs paying ASAP!’ However, when we are constantly dividing our attention it often leads us to feel stressed, unfulfilled and means we miss the beauty of the present moment.

Mindfulness is state of whole mind and body awareness focusing on the importance of our present experience rather than that of the past or future. It has been proven to reduce stress and the severity of depression, anxiety and ADHD in children and adults alike. The way we act as adults has a significant impact on a child’s opinion of themselves and their personal resilience. Being present with your child, playing with them undistracted, helps them to feel worthwhile and reinforces their natural tendencies to live in the moment.

Ellen Langer, a world-renowned mindfulness researcher, found that children not only prefer to interact with mindful adults, but actually devalue themselves following interactions with mindless adults.

So, whatever your goals for the New Year, finding small ways to practice mindfulness can greatly benefit your wellbeing, and in turn reinforce the act of being present for our children.

Committing to daily mindfulness is like any other behaviour change. It seems difficult at first! But the more we practice, it becomes less of a chore and more of a habit that benefits not only ourselves but also those around us.

Herein lie a few simple ways you can practice mindfulness daily.

  1. Start your day mindfully by stretching each part of your body and noticing how it feels. This can be a fun activity with a child as you can ask them how each body part feels today. Start with “How are your feet feeling today, Sam?” All the way up to the face and hopefully a SMILE! Or if you have older children, see if they will join you on a yoga mat to start the morning stretching together.
  2. Be in the moment. Take time to notice the present. Ask yourself (and a child if appropriate): What can I see? Feel? Hear? Smell? And Taste? It is amazing the things you will notice that the multitasker in you has previously missed.
  3. Mindful activity. Fully engage in an activity, distraction free. This can be alone or with a child. It sounds strange but a hair brushing ritual whilst focusing on breathing and enjoying the moment can be very relaxing for parent and child alike. But if this is not your thing it can be anything from playing, reading, to using technology… as long as you fully engage, you are living life to the fullest in that moment, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Dr Claire Jensen is a clinical psychologist. For more information about her work, visit psychologyconsultants.com.au