The theme for this morning’s Mindful Minis Workshop was “Staying Connected”. With all the stress and demands of everyday life, it can be difficult to stay present and connected to those close to us. Today we looked at some practical ways, using mindfulness, to help us keep the connection between parent and child strong.
We started off the morning with 3 deep breaths. I encouraged everyone to take a longer exhalation which really helps to slow everything down. Our breath is something we can connect to at any time and can be invaluable in turning an overwhelming situation into one that is more manageable.
The children then helped me to explain to the parents what mindfulness is. 🙂 We used the classic glitter jar example to show how busy our minds can become with many thoughts rushing around. When we practise mindfulness, it helps to calm our minds just like the glitter in the jar settles when we stop shaking it. We also showed the parents how to do a Mindful Minis clap. We can use this at any time to reconnect to our bodies. Clap your hands hard and notice the sensations in your hands and fingers. Another, more gentle option, is to rub your hands together quickly. Again, take a moment to notice the sensations in your hands. Both these techniques can be used anytime, anywhere if we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and needing to reconnect with ourselves.
The children loved the hula hoop exercise where a hula hoop needs to make its way around the circle without anyone letting go of their neighbour’s hand. With much twisting and wriggling and a few giggles, the hula hoop successfully made its way around the circle. I encouraged the children and parents to notice how they felt during the exercise. Did they feel anxious while waiting for the hula hoop to reach them? Did they feel uncomfortable when everyone watched as they tried to wriggle through the hoop? Perhaps they simply felt happy and enjoyed the laughter and fun? Mindfulness is about regulating our emotions and in order to do this, we need to be able to recognise how we are feeling. With children, we use fun and different ways to encourage non-threatening talk about feelings. The hula hoop exercise can stir up different emotions in different people but ultimately it is a fun way to begin to take note of how we are feeling and recognise our different feelings.
When we talk to our children about their day, it can often be a one-sided, probing conversation that doesn’t get much response. And then when we are trying to get them ready for school or rushing out somewhere, our child initiates a long-drawn-out story that we cannot focus on. Actively listening to our child means making space in the day for us to stop and focus. It means waiting to speak instead of directing the conversation. It means turning off your cell phone, laptop, tv, ipad, etc. It means sitting close to your child and giving them your undivided attention for a face-to-face, uninterrupted conversation. Just as children need to be fed with food, so do they need to be fed with your time and attention. We played a game of three-legged pom pom toes. The child and parent had one leg tied together and needed to work as a team to pick up pom poms with their toes. The parents needed to actively listen and follow the child’s instructions on how best to go about picking up the pom poms. This is a great child-led activity that many of the children really enjoy.
After the tea break, I spoke about how to stay connected by inviting your children into your world. Children often ask to help – with baking, gardening, cooking supper. My son often asks to help me sew. My immediate go-to is often “No, you’re too young” and I worry that it won’t be done right or that it will take too long. But by inviting your children into your world, you let them know that they’re important and appreciated. They feel loved. And suddenly, both your world and theirs become much brighter, shinier and happier.
We then proceeded to do some mindful movement and went on a trip around the world. We explored a variety of partner yoga poses on our adventure. We visited Italy and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa (standing partner stretch). We bicycled through to Germany and ate some braided bread (sit and twist stretch). We took a helicopter to New York City and spent some time in Central Park (tree pose). We then flew to Chile and explored the Volcano Pose. We rowed to China and did some mindful walking along the Great Wall. We took a rocket to Australia and discovered some sea anemones (Bug in Trouble Pose) in the Great Barrier Reef. And finally, we made it back to Africa and settled in savasana to enjoy watching the stars of the African sky.
I moved straight into the guided visualisation. I asked everyone to imagine themselves walking along a beach. To notice the soft, white sand under their feet. To notice the salty sea smell in their nostrils. To listen to the sound of the ocean. I lead them to a beautiful, white house on the beach. As they off-loaded their backpacks full of all their worries, concerns and anxieties, I suggested they felt lighter and calmer. I suggested that they could then climb the staircase with ease. At the top of a staircase stood a comfortable, white chair waiting for them. By sitting in the chair, they could watch the ocean and regain a deep feeling of peace and calm. I suggested that if at any time life felt too overwhelming, that they could bring themselves back to this comfortable, white chair in this white house on the beach and take some calming deep breaths.
We ended off the morning with some artwork. I encouraged the parents to stay present during the exercise. Since it was nearing the end of the workshop, the mind can tend to wander and start to plan the next event. I asked the parents to notice if this happened, with kindness and compassion, and to gently bring themselves back to the present moment. The very act of staying present is mindfulness and staying present with our children has a hugely positive influence on our connection. Being physically present is not enough. We need to be mentally and emotionally present as well.
For the artwork, I gave each parent – child pair a parent and child paper doll cut out. I then provided a variety of “outfits” for them to choose from. The children got to choose the clothes for their parents and the parents dressed the children. I encouraged them to think about a time or place where they had enjoyed spending time with each other, and to draw that scene. It was wonderful to see the collaborative effort. Some of the children choose some very interesting outfits for their parents!
I ended off the workshop by encouraging the parents to choose love. When you find yourself on that slippery downhill slope and you are about to lose it, stop. Drop your agenda, just for the moment. Take a deep breath to calm yourself and choose to return yourself back to a state of equilibrium. Allow yourself to return to that peaceful place inside where your actions are wise and loving. This action of choosing love over and over stretches your heart. It connects you more deeply with your child.
Thanks to all the participants of the workshop for sharing the morning with me to love, cherish and connect more deeply to the special little people in our lives.