This morning I had great fun teaching our first “My Parent and Me!” Mindful Minis Workshop. What a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. The theme for the workshop was “Nurturing the Parent-Child Connection”. I used the analogy of a tree trunk representing the connection between parent and child. The parent sat at the root of the tree trunk – stable and firmly grounded to support the connection. The child sat at the top of the tree trunk, looking out at the big wide world, eager to explore his / her independence but still connected to the parent via the tree trunk connection.
I explained that when a child is still an infant, the connection between them is like a young tree with a short trunk. The baby is often physically close to the parent similar to how the leaves of a small tree are close to the roots if the trunk has not yet grown tall. But as the tree grows, the leaves move further and further away from the roots of the tree. In the same way, as a child gets older, they become more independent and spend more time away from the parent. But just as the trunk of the tree grows thicker and stronger as the tree gets older, so too does the connection between parent and child grow deeper and stronger as the child gets older. But for this to happen, the connection must be nurtured.
A tree needs water, sunlight and nutrients amoung other things in order to grow and flourish. In the same way, the parent-child connection needs nurturing. We explored different things that could potentially be “food” for our connection tree. Some ideas were playing Lego with the parent, reading a story together, swimming together, giving hugs and saying “I love you”. All of these can be seen as “food” for the connection tree that helps it to grow and strengthen.
I showed the parents and children a small, wooden tree. As we thought of different things that will help our tree trunk connections between parent and child to deepen, we added brightly coloured heart fruits to our wooden tree. This concretely displayed how nurturing our parent – child connection, allows it to flourish and grow and be beautiful, just as a tree grows and flourishes and can produce pretty flowers or fruit when it is nurtured.
Our first mindfulness exercise of the morning was hand painting. Each child got a turn to paint their parent’s hand. The purpose of the exercise was for the parent to pay attention to how it felt to have their hand painted. Did it feel ticklish? Did it feel scratchy? Did the parent feel anxious about getting paint on their clothes? Mindfulness is all about noticing. The children had great delight in painting their parents’ hands in a multitude of colours. The roles were then reversed and the parent painted the child’s hand. Both made hand prints on a large sheet of cardboard. Later on in the workshop, we used the hand prints again to make a note of 5 things we love about our parent or child. These were written on the fingers of the hand print and the rest of the picture was decorated. A lovely artwork activity for parent and child to connect and express their love for each other.
The next mindfulness exercise we did was a blindfolded taste test. The children had great delight in blindfolding their parents and then choosing what they wanted to feed them. I asked the parents not to try guess what the food was, but more to focus on noticing how the food tasted in their mouths; what sensations they felt in their mouths; where in their mouths they felt the flavours. The roles were then reversed and the parents had a turn to feed their child who were blindfolded. There was lots of laughter and a bit of spitting out the unwanted tastes!
We also did a mindfulness exercise to pay attention to our feet. Our feet often don’t get enough thanks for the job they do in carting us around all day. So, we did a sensory, tactile exercise to give our feet an opportunity to experience different sensations. Each child got to rub different textured materials on their parents’ feet and vice versa. The materials ranged from a feather to a spiky ball to an electric toothbrush! Afterwards I handed out some arnica oil and everyone got a mini foot massage!
During the morning, we also did some mindful movement and breathing exercises. Our mindful movement journey took us on a picnic travelling by hot air balloon. Lots of fun and excitement. We crash landed into a tree so then needed to lie down to rest. A perfect opportunity to listen to a guided relaxation. The mediation took the parents and children along a path in nature to a big tree. This tree represented the parent-child connection. I encouraged them to think again about what can nurture the parent-child connection. They imagined these things watering their tree and watching it grow and produce wonderful fruits.
It was a very special morning and I felt blessed to share the time with the moms and their boys.