A beautiful [edited] story from Chris Bergstrom of Blissful Kids (Finland):
Yesterday my three-year-old son Anton gave me an amazing mindfulness lesson…Yesterday I was stressed and a little angry too. I was tired and anxious about work stuff. And I just wanted some peace and quiet. After getting up at 5am and working eight hours straight, I had to hurry to go on a picnic with my parents-in-law.
Stress was affecting the quality of my thoughts: I looked at the sky and was sure it would rain …(which it would not) … the whole picnic felt like a bad idea …(it turned out to be the opposite)… and I simply didn’t want to go. My mind made all these excuses for not going—for not taking care of myself.
Anton noticed what was going on and asked me if I was sad. I took a deep breath and told him the truth. Yes, I was a little sad and little angry at myself for not taking care of myself better that day. I wasn’t sad because of him or because he wanted to go on the picnic. I had simply worked too much without a break, and I was a little overwhelmed. His response was sweet …
Anton: “Daddy, it’s okay … we can go … and you can listen to the water.”
I was dumbfounded.
Anton continued: “You can listen to the water and you will not be sad anymore.”
He sounded like a sage from a seventies kung fu movie. And then it dawned on me … What he said and did made perfect sense!
1. He helped me acknowledge my mood. Which I hadn’t by myself … I had been too busy being grumpy dad. I hadn’t noticed how my mood was affecting my thoughts.
2. Then he pulled the oldest trick in the (mindfulness) book. He asked me to focus on my senses to calm down. Bravo! Not bad for a three-year-old!
So, we went on the picnic and we focused on our senses …
… we listened to the little stream running down to the beach …
… to the waves …
… the wind …
… we paid close attention to flowers and ants…
… we smelt the pine trees …
… and tasted some awesome blueberries.
I felt calm and recharged. It was the best day that week!
My little “guru” had helped me:
1. Notice and accept the state I was in.
2. Focus on my senses to calm down and recharge.
The cool thing is that when you admit to yourself that you are in fact sad … … angry … stressed … or anxious … it takes the edge of the emotion. This is something you can do with your children too. Or on your own to de-stress. You can help your children notice and accept their emotional state before it escalates. When they are bored, annoyed or frustrated, for example. At the first signs. Before they go berserk. Oftentimes I simply ask my son to name the emotion he is experiencing and it helps. When I notice that he is getting frustrated, I ask him to pause and express his feelings.
After checking in on your kid’s emotional state, you can continue by helping him or her pay attention to his or her senses. We use our senses to stay present minded with my son all the time. He knows it works for him … and daddy!