How mindfulness helps you ‘see’ your kids and teens
I was inspired to write this after reading a blog from NY psychotherapist, Katherine Schafler, about the 4 unconscious questions a person asks themselves. The one that connected with me the most was about ‘being seen’.
As a child I grew up in a culture where ‘children should be seen and not heard’. This attitude may have been exclusive to the Victorian/Scottish parenting style at the time, but as an adult, it has left me with lots of thoughts and feelings to work through and process – sometimes with the help of a therapist or my meditation practice.
I am also a foster carer and one of the key things I’ve learned is that ‘being seen’ is essential in order to have a connection with the children we care for.
I believe that my mindfulness skills, my personal meditation practice and my ability to introduce a ‘teaching meditation’ to the kids we care for in a way that meets their needs and abilities (and interests) has helped us start to build a an emotional and mental bridge between the world and kids in our care so that they can connect to the world around them in a more kind, loving and caring way.
The irony is that you are probably reading this blog on your phone or computer. If you are reading it on your phone, perhaps your kids are nearby. If they are, stop and just take a moment to connect with them. Speak to them, look at them, hold their gaze and just connect to them.
Do this mindfully, with no expectation of an answer or a response. Even if they appear to reject your attention, just breathe and let them know that you are there. (You can always put your phone down and return to this blog at time when they are in bed).
Unplug from the Internet
I often see parents and other adults in a child’s life hooked into their phone – barely noticing what is going on or how the child is trying to engage. I see it on the bus as the child in the buggy looks at their caregiver with wonder, I notice it with some parents who find that answering the email or text is more important than noticing their child on the swing or the song they are singing to themselves.
Remember that children copy our actions and behaviour so we must show them how to connect to us by us connecting to them.
A mindful Christmas for kids
A perfect opportunity to connect to children is the festive season. You may not think so but there are a number of great ‘experience’ based ideas on this blog from ‘your modern family’ >>>
With Christmas the likelihood is that children and teens will start their quest for new toys and things. They are bombarded with advertising all the time, so this is to be expected. Try to ensure that if you do buy them something, it’s not so you can go off and do your own thing. If it’s a game or toy, join in. If it is clothes (teenagers that is) then get them to try it on and make a fuss). In other words, let them know that you ‘see them’.
Reflecting on my fostering experience, I see kids who are given lots of stuff by birth parents who sometimes struggle to afford it. But these kids just want someone to spend time with them, teach them stuff and let them know they are valued. They may not say it and their behaviour may suggest the opposite but we know when we’ve persevered that the dividends have been huge.
No-one said that giving kids the sense that we ‘see them’ was easy and without challenges. But take yourself back to your childhood and teens and if you were ‘seen’ then relish in the lovely feelings, thoughts and warmth you feel in your body. If you didn’t feel ‘seen’ imagine how much different you would feel today as an adult.
Now that’s a gift worth giving.
Heartfelt Tip – If you find yourself struggling with the idea of being able to just ‘see’ your child then take some time to sit with that. When I meditate I also take problems or questions into my meditation.
I do this by noticing my breath, relaxing my body and paying attention to both that and my thoughts and feelings as I ‘drop’ a question in.
- “Why do I feel unsure about connecting to my kids this way”?
- “Why do I spend so much time on my phone/computer”?
- “Why do I find it difficult to just observe them and what they are doing without trying to fix/change it”?
- “Why do I find it difficult to accept them as they are”?
There may be other questions you can ask in your meditation. Or you can use just one of the above to get started. When you ask yourself the question, sit just quietly observing your thoughts and your breath and just notice what comes up – without judgement.
This is how your meditation practice helps your children – you’ll get insights and answers that can positively influence your interaction with children. It is like you are tapping into a universal library of knowledge.
Lorraine E Murray
Founder of the Connected Kids Programme – teaching children and teens meditation
Mindfulness and Meditation Courses for kids, teens and adults