We live in a fast-paced environment.
As families, we race around from school, to work, to sports clubs, to music lessons to tutoring — and that’s just during the week days. We, as parents, are constantly looking towards the next organised activity: birthday parties on the weekend, football on Saturdays, or a family day out on Sunday.
In many ways, we all lead a very blessed life and should be so lucky to have so many activities and plans at our fingertips, but the constant planning, orchestrating and arranging can mean that at times, we’re not actually enjoying the present activity.
This goes for children too. We can push our hurried outlook and plans onto our children so that they in turn feel hurried and pressured to move forward onto the next thing, instead of enjoying the current situation.
There is also the added pressure of dwelling on the past, worrying that things could have been done better, and constantly reflecting on what went wrong, what could change and what we would have done differently. This is not just in terms of activities and plans but in all aspects of life.
I was very lucky to have been able to experience some mindfulness training when I lived in UK. This came in two forms: one was counselling and the other, meditation.
Both were for specific things happening in my life at the time but on further research I found that there is a huge benefit to using mindfulness in every walk of life, and this benefit extends to our children and their lives.
When do we really stop to appreciate what’s going on around us? When do our children get the time to simply be in the now and not worry about the past, or panic about the future?
Babies and toddlers can teach us a huge amount about being present and executing mindfulness simply because their consciousness allows them to be fully immersed in what’s going on moment to moment. Watch them. We can all learn so much. Observing this in my children has really helped me to understand the benefits.
What I have gleaned from all of this is a few helpful tips that allow me to engage in the here and now. These are also used by my children to allow them to stop and just ‘be’ when things around them are getting to be too much.
- Stop. Not just what you’re doing but what your brain is doing. This is incredibly difficult but it doesn’t have to be for hours on end. Allow yourself a few minutes a day of quiet (this might seem impossible but you’ll be surprised how quickly you find a daily rythmn).
- Download a meditation app. Using this will take you and your kids out of the daily grind and allow you a moment to pause and appreciate. I have one, and it’s 3 minutes of the day. Might not seem like much but you’d be surprised.
- Have a period of time without plans. Each weekend, set aside a portion of time (an hour, a morning, a day) to do whatever you want to do. Ask the kids what they’d like to do but no screens, no planning. Just being together at home and see what comes out of it. You could do stuff together, or individually. Best of all, don’t tell anyone it’s happening. Then nothing can be planned!
- Turn everything off. We’re the worst for having the TV, or music or screens on. Truth be told, I don’t like the quiet but I am training myself to appreciate what it offers: imagination, peace and quality of time.
- Take a walk. This is a crazy thing to say in the country where taking a walk is a bit difficult due to the obvious heat. But if you can wait until the end of the day (and are able to smother you and family in mosquito repellent) then you can walk at dusk. You don’t even have to talk or have a planned destination. It can be a chance to listen to the wildlife, watch the bats flying around and really appreciate nature for a short time each day.
I wish I could say I do all of this every day. I wish I could say I do it every week, but when I do practise these small adjustments to my life I certainly feel better for it.