We all know too well how sharing your life with children, especially young children, can sometimes feel as if we are riding on a non-stop, full-speed-ahead freight train. Coordinating meals, driving to extracurriculars, self-care routines, cleaning and organizing is, though necessary, often tedious and time-consuming. These tasks can make the day to day activities feel too rushed and sometimes mundane. Life can seem as if we are merely trying to get the job done so that we can move on to the next task. Did you ever stop to consider if there is another way? A way to bring more meaning, purpose and connection to your daily life? What if these moments can actually be utilized as valuable opportunities to help us better connect with our children? What if these moments can actually be key opportunities to grow in your relationship with your children and model valuable life long skills that build empathy, love, resilience, insight and more?
When life is inundated with lots of activity it can be hard for us to process so much stimuli. This is especially true for children. So, working to establish moments of pause that include a sense of calm, connection, and reflection are absolutely necessary for a healthy, thriving brain and body. In fact, the brain research behind this is clear. We cannot think clearly when feeling stressed, fearful, anxious, or angry.
How exactly do I take a pause with my children? You may be thinking: “I have so many other things on my mind that distract me from connecting fully and authentically with my children.” Below you will find 5 ways to take a pause with your children that will leave you feeling more joyful each day.
Breathe- Engage in mindful breaths either with or without your child. If done independently, simply invite your child to participate, but do not force it. A mindful meditation practice that involves being aware of your breath and the present moment allowing yourself to let go of any fear, judgement, control, or reaction can help you and your child connect to reconnect. This does not have to be a long activity, simply 1-2 minutes of breathing deeply and slowly will help to regulate emotions, bring oxygen to your brain allowing you to think more clearly and improve your executive functioning skills.
Enjoy- One of the most powerful things that you can give your child is the feeling that they are worthy, loveable, and important. Enjoying time spent with your child and expressing to them how they bring joy to those around them. This not only builds their self-esteem but also provides them with a sense of well-being and value. How often do you really look into the eyes of your child? How often do you pause to listen to their stories, share in their excitement or provide comfort for their sorrows? Pause to enjoy the gift you have received of being their parent.
Five Senses- Use the five senses- sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing- to take notice with your child what is within you and around you. My children and I have been engaging in a mindfulness activity called Sensing Sound where we assign a leader who rings a bell and asks the listeners to notice the sounds near and far when the bell stops ringing. This activity grounds us during sometimes hectic days and reminds us to pay attention to one another and our surroundings. You can also use the acronym SIFT developed by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, authors of The Whole Brain Child. SIFT stands for sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts within yourself. Siegel and Bryson (2011) argue that if we can pause in the present moment and look from the outside in, as if a spectator, then we can develop a perspective that allows us to see more clearly and take notice of key thoughts, feelings, and emotional sensations. Our senses can help de-escalate stressful situations and take notice of the present to help us pause with our children.
Outdoor Pause- Step outside, even if just for a moment and breathe some fresh air. Research shows that being in nature is one of the best ways to spark a love of learning and release those feel good hormones that help regulate our nervous system. Take your child by the hand and look up at the sky, take notice of the trees, buildings, other sights and sounds around you. What interests your child most about the outdoors and being in nature? Take this moment of pause to see what peaks your child’s interest. Encourage further discovery by exploring with them. You might ask them what they notice or what they wonder.
Accept without Judgement- the phrase “it is, what is it” can be a very powerful one when looking to pause amidst what often feels like crazy, non-stop days. If we choose to accept this idea of present moment abundance rather than lack or scarcity, then we can connect with our children in the here and now and feel joy just the way they are. This acceptance communicates to our children that we love them unconditionally and respect and honor their true, authentic selves just the way they are. This is not to say that we accept aggressive or abusive behaviors. This is only a way for us to make a choice to start from a place of calm, compassion, and love when connecting with our children.
So through the messes, schedules, conflicts and arguments, remember to hit pause. Look deeply into the eyes of your children and connect with these vibrant, spirited, and curious humans in your life. These pauses will foster a healthy relationship that is marked with care, unconditional love, understanding, empathy, and more.