Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash

Did you know mindfulness can even be beneficial for infants and young children?

The practice of mindfulness is not just for adults! Our focus this week is on infants and children (we’ll get to teens next week).

Embrace the little moments and throw those distractions to the side. Raising a young child is very rewarding but also comes with hurdles and frustration. Incorporating mindfulness techniques into your daily routine is essential to your child(ren), and to you as a parent.

Rock your infant, grab the Play Doh with your toddler – and don’t forget to put the cell phone down while you’re at it!

Kids embody the meaning of mindfulness.

Children are intuitive and know when parents get distracted even before their language is fully developed. They CRAVE your attention. be in the moment with your baby or child – gaze lovingly into their eyes and embrace the fact that you are the center of their universe. Giving them your full attention and presence is a great way to instill mindfulness.

 

Photo by @forbesoste


“Infants: Even the youngest children can sense distraction. So work on being present.

RIGHT FROM THE START

During the first year of life, the most effective way to share mindfulness with a child is to embody it. Children are hungry for our attention and affection, and can sense when parents or caregivers are distracted. So when you are with an infant, try to stay in the present moment no matter what is happening.

In practice, this can be as simple as holding a baby quietly and maintaining eye contact with a gentle, loving demeanor. “When the baby gazes at the parent, the parent can gaze back,” said Ms. Kim. “That kind of reflective mirroring behavior is a good way of teaching infancy mindfulness.”

Smartphones are popular, but distracting. Mindfulness teachers encourage parents and caregivers to put down the phone and engage with a baby, even if it’s simply making eye contact and smiling. “Instead of scrolling through email, put down the device and be fully present and attentive,” said Ms. Kim.

Mothers and other caretakers have an opportunity to practice this several times a day, when feeding their babies. “When you’re with your child, where’s your attention?” said Jessica Morey, founder of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, a nonprofit that brings mindfulness training to youth. “That starts even from breast feeding.”

STAY CALM

When infants do become upset, try not to let that make you agitated. Doing so can trigger an unhelpful cycle where parent and child are each feeding off each other’s unhappiness. “Parents and children really co-regulate each other,” said Ms. Greenland. “As the child starts screaming, if the parents escalates, too, they ratchet each other up.”

WHEN YOU ARE FEELING FRUSTRATED

For parents or caregivers who find themselves upset and out of touch with the present moment, a popular mindfulness exercise known as S.T.O.P. can be helpful.

  • Stop. Just take a momentary pause, no matter what you’re doing.
  • Take a breath. Feel the sensation of your own breathing, which brings you back to the present moment.
  • Observe. Acknowledge what is happening, for good or bad, inside you or out. Just note it.
  • Proceed. Having briefly checked in with the present moment, continue with whatever it was you were doing.

MOVEMENT

Being mindful is simple, but it’s not always easy. Especially when spending time with infants, there can be many moments when caregiving is, well, boring. “There’s nursing, there’s diapering, there’s feeding,” said Ms. Kim. “That’s about it.”

If you find your mind wandering, one way for parents to re-engage with mindfulness is to move, either performing gentle yoga when the baby isn’t being held, or trying out a walking meditation.

“Too much of the mindfulness work is really oriented towards staying still,” says Ms. Greenland. “If your nervous system is riled up, many people, especially those new to practice, are better with moving.”

THANKFUL WITH EVERY STEP

For parents with infants, it can be useful to cultivate a sense of gratitude. This exercise, like others in this guide, is adapted from “Mindful Games,” an activity card set created by Ms. Greenland and Ms. Harris.

First, find a space where you can safely and comfortably walk indoors while holding your child. If you’re not feeling particularly happy, that’s okay. The point of this exercise is not to magically feel better. It is to experience the sensation of moving and to focus your attention on the sensation of holding a baby and walking, and to focus on the feeling of gratitude.

Holding the baby safely and then turn your gaze downward and begin walking slowly and deliberately. Notice the feeling in each foot as you step. Do you feel the heel of your foot, the ball of your foot and your toes? Parents naturally feel a range of emotions when holding a child, from deep love to being intensely overwhelmed and anxiety. If paying attention to your body makes you uncomfortable for any reason, you can try listening to sounds as you walk instead. Simply listening to the orchestra of sounds while walking slowly — from the rustling of your clothes as you move, to singing birds, to the everyday activity of your home — can be a calming break from the constant caretaking required for an infant.

Then, every time you take a step, think of how much you appreciate your child, feeling their warmth as you hold them. Silently repeat phrases that capture your gratitude for the experience, such as “I’m thankful that I can hold you,” or “I’m thankful that you’re smiling right now.”

Next try sending yourself and your baby well-wishes with each step. Caring for an infant can be deeply exhausting, as all of your energy, day and night, is being devoted to another human being. It’s an especially important time to be kind to yourself. Every time you take a step, send yourself and your baby a wish. (You can use these wishes or create personal ones in your own words.)

  • May we be happy. 
  • May we be healthy and strong.
  • May we sleep well soon. 
  • May this exhausting time together make our bond stronger. 
  • May we have compassion for each other.

As you turn around and retrace your steps, think of the ways your life is better because of your child and continue the exercise. Remember that at times, infants and caregivers can co-regulate. If a caregiver is feeling agitated, his or her walking slowly and deliberately, with a focus on something other than the baby being upset and worrying about how he or she will get the baby to calm down, will settle the caregiver, which in turn may help regulate the baby.


Toddlers: Raising children between the ages of 2 and 4 can be incredibly rewarding and immensely challenging.

MOVING ON

In the course of months, toddlers discover language, gain control over their bodies and begin to exert their independence. Yet even at this young age, toddlers can begin to experience and understand mindfulness. When toddlers are in a good mood, mindfulness exercises can help them become more familiar with the sensations of happiness and gratitude. And when they get upset, mindfulness can help toddlers move on from the fleeting experiences that might have made them cry, and instead focus their attention on new, less upsetting sensations. This shift moves “their attention away from whatever it is they’re worrying about, to a present moment experience such as the feeling of their own breath,” said Ms. Greenland. “We don’t pretend that the bad isn’t happening, but let’s also think about three good things that are happening right now, too.”

The most effective way to bring mindfulness to toddlers is, of course, to embody it. “When I think about mindfulness for children, I think of family culture,” said Ms. Kim. “The emphasis needs to be on the parents.”

From the time your children are young, try to instill good habits of attention in them by practicing them yourself. Here are some things to try:

  • Don’t look at your phone too often when your children are around.
  • Spend time doing activities that promote focus, creativity and inquiry — such as reading, making art and having conversations — rather than watching a lot of TV.
  • Treat other people — especially your children — kindly, even when you are frustrated and upset.
  • And express gratitude for the things in your life you feel thankful for.

“We’re not even aware how many times we’re checking our phone, how many times we’re at our computer with our backs turned,” said Ms. Kim. “We are phenomenally distracted and we are demonstrating those habits to our children. A prerequisite for cultivating mindfulness is looking at our habits of distraction and working to change those.”

BREATHING EXERCISES

Even with the best of intentions, raising toddlers isn’t easy. The exercise described above, known as S.T.O.P., can be helpful in challenging moments.

In addition, getting to know our bodies is an essential part of mindfulness practice. This starts with our breath. Breathing exercises can help you become more familiar with the rhythms of your body.

Photo Credit (c) NY Times

Young Children: Don’t make mindfulness seem like something only to be used in times of trouble — present it as a tool to be used in a variety of situations.

BEING MINDFUL EVERY DAY

As children develop into early childhood, they become capable not only of practicing mindfulness with the guidance of a parent or caregiver, but also of retaining some of these skills and turning to them in times of need. “By around age 4 they are able to learn skills that they can utilize on their own,” said Ms. Greenland.

To instill these habits in children, practice is key. Don’t make mindfulness something that is turned to only in times of stress. Instead, make mindfulness exercises a regular part of the daily routine, an activity in and of itself, just like reading, playing outside or making art. And rather than making mindfulness seem as if it is only as an antidote to irritating situations, present it as a tool that can help children explore new sensations, including those that are pleasant, neutral and unfamiliar. 

“Use it as a tool to explore kindness and curiosity,” said Ms. Morey. “Ask children what they feel in their bodies.”

Parents can also continue to embody mindfulness, and should feel comfortable meditating in front of their children. “It’s a wonderful practice for parents, too, to meditate in the midst of whatever is going on,” said Ms. Harris. “The children may not have any concept of what we’re doing when we meditate, but they’re mimicking the behavior and they’re interested.”

Photo Credit (c) NY Times

Seeing Clearly:

A glitter ball can help us understand the connection between mind and body.

 

TEACHING FORGIVENESS

As children grow older and become more independent, parents and caregivers grapple with a loss of control. When children are in school and out with friends, there’s simply less a parent can do to influence the lives of their children. And when setbacks occur, as they inevitably will, it is important for parents to meet those misfortunes with mindfulness.

Rather than getting hung up on whatever the problem is, note it and address it, but at the same time recognize that it is fleeting and will pass. If it is the child who misbehaved, make an effort to forgive them.

And if the parent or caregiver is blaming themselves, they should work on self-forgiveness, too. “Wisdom doesn’t come from being perfect,” said Ms. Greenland. “Wisdom comes from being present.” “


Look for more in the next week on older Children and Teens! Until next week, Be Wise!

 

 

 

Resource: Gelles, D. Mindfulness for Children. New York Times. New York, NY. 

The practice of mindfulness is not just for our hippy counterparts. Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. Being mindful is also a practice of being GENTLE with yourself. We love that!

For both kids and adults, mindfulness practices can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic stress and improve sleep.

And who doesn’t want better sleep?

So, how can we be more mindful? We recently read an article by David Gelles in the NY Times offering basic tips for children and adults of all ages. We’ve broken it into segments to be more MINDFUL of your time and attention, and just to make life easier for all of us. Enjoy –


“What Is Mindfulness, and Why Do Kids Need It?

From our earliest moments, mindfulness can help minimize anxiety and increase happiness.

 

Photo Credit (c) NY Times

HOW IT HELPS

Adversity comes at us from the moment we are born. Infants get hungry and tired. Toddlers grapple with language and self-control. And as children develop through adolescence to become teenagers, life grows ever more complicated. Developing relationships, navigating school and exercising independence — the very stuff of growing up — naturally creates stressful situations for every child.

At each developmental stage, mindfulness can be a useful tool for decreasing anxiety and promoting happiness.

Mindfulness — a simple technique that emphasizes paying attention to the present moment in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner — has emerged as a popular mainstream practice in recent decades. It is being taught to executives at corporations, athletes in the locker room, and increasingly, to children both at home and in school. 

EARLY HABITS

Children are uniquely suited to benefit from mindfulness practice. Habits formed early in life will inform behaviors in adulthood, and with mindfulness, we have the opportunity to give our children the habit of being peaceful, kind and accepting. 

“For children, mindfulness can offer relief from whatever difficulties they might be encountering in life,” said Annaka Harris, an author who teaches mindfulness to children. “It also gives them the beauty of being in the present moment.”

Part of the reason why mindfulness is so effective for children can be explained by the way the brain develops. While our brains are constantly developing throughout our lives, connections in the prefrontal circuits are created at their fastest rate during childhood. Mindfulness, which promotes skills that are controlled in the prefrontal cortex, like focus and cognitive control, can therefore have a particular impact on the development of skills including self-regulation, judgment and patience during childhood.

MODELING MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness isn’t something that can be outsourced. For parents and caregivers, the best way to teach a child to be mindful is to embody the practice oneself. 

“Learning mindfulness isn’t like piano lessons, where you can have someone else teach it to your children,” said Susan Kaiser Greenland, a mindfulness instructor who works with children. “You have to learn it yourself.”

Of course, being a parent is an incredibly stressful experience in its own right. For those raising children, practicing mindfulness exercises — and ideally practicing mindfulness meditation for even a few minutes a day — can be profoundly beneficial, allowing caregivers to not only share the skills of happiness and acceptance with a new generation, but also take better care of themselves at the same time…”

Look for more in the next two weeks on Infants and Toddlers, Children and Teens!

 

 

 

 

Resource: Gelles, D. Mindfulness for Children. New York Times. New York, NY. 


Additional Reading/Resources

Here are some of our favorite resources about mindfulness for kids and parents. 

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting 

Authored by Myla Kabat-Zinn and her husband Jon, the founder of mindfulness based stress reduction, this is a comprehensive guide to mindful parenting.

The Mindful Child 

Written by Ms. Greenland, this is a helpful guide for parents that includes techniques to help children develop mindfulness.

Mindful Games 

Created by Ms. Greenland and Ms. Harris, this activity card set was the inspiration for several exercises in this guide.

Sitting Still Like a Frog

This book, written by Eline Snel, features exercises that can help children deal with anxiety, improve concentration and handle difficult emotions.

A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen monk, wrote this guide for parents who want to introduce their children to mindfulness and meditation.

Sitting Together

A comprehensive guide to mindfulness for parents and children by Ms. Kim, this three-volume set includes a study guide for parents, lesson plans for children and an activity book.

 

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

How important is Self-Care while caring for others? Self-care can help you enhance your health and wellbeing, manage your stress, and maintain professionalism as a worker with young people. Learn to identify activities and practices that support your wellbeing as a professional and help you to sustain positive selfcare in the long-term.

Through a partnership, Fairfax County Public Schools and Office for Children are committed to providing access to quality early childhood experiences for all children in Fairfax County. Each month, the Fairfax Early Childhood Partnerships team publishes 5-4-3-2-1 early childhood tips. For December, The Wise Family’s very own Resident in Counseling, Kasey Cain, created the tips sheet on the topic of Self-Care for the adult in a child’s life.

It is important at ALL times to take care of yourself.  However, this reminder is especially timely now.  While there are certainly joys during the holidays, no matter which you may celebrate, it is also a stressful time.  If your children are off from school there are schedules that need to be worked out.  Visiting family, holiday gift giving, wishing some loved ones could be with us… all of these and more can also add a layer of stress.  Please enjoy these self-care tips and feel free to peruse the Fairfax Early Childhood Partnerships page for past tip sheets.

Take special care this holiday season. Until next week, Be Wise!

 

As we move through the holiday season, we want to take a few minutes to remind you about the value of making memories. With this in mind, our team wanted to share some fond family dinnertime memories.

Amy Fortney Parks, PhD – Practice Owner: Most of my childhood memories focus around dinnertimes – maybe because I have always loved food – maybe because it was my big chance to talk and to be heard – or maybe it was the most likely time of day when my whole family would be together. The big memories I have are not from elaborate feasts or epic culinary adventures, but of simple dinners at the kitchen “bar” before my parents went out on a date. We would always get breakfast for dinner on these occasions and my Dad truly makes THE BEST pancakes! We would all sit side-by-side on our stools at the “bar” while my parents cooked and finished putting on ties and jewelry. I don’t remember the babysitter, or the activities of the evening – no one took pictures or brought home any souvenirs – the memory is from the glow of being in the same room together and KING syrup (you should try it!).

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:

Growing up, we lived about an 8-hour drive from both sides of our extended family. Since we weren’t always able to be with our relatives for the holidays we have often shared those events with friends and neighbors. Sometimes, your family is the one you make! Over the past decade our Christmas Eve tradition of homemade ravioli has evolved from a small dinner for four to a four-course meal for twenty-five. Ravioli Dinner is my favorite holiday! The most important part of the whole night is making sure that everyone can fit at one big table because that’s the fun of it; everyone being together! The night is full of delicious food, wonderful people, and a lot of loud laughter.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Growing up in a family run business gave me the opportunity to be a part of a blended family that exposed me to a wide range of cultures and experiences. As a child, I remember learning about the Feast of the Seven Fishes through the delicious Italian Christmas Eve dinners at Miss Carol’s house. The night was filled with joy, laughter, and love. I cherished this yearly tradition for our families to join together to celebrate and spread holiday cheer!


 

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, how can you make meals simple? How can you make the small times together into the biggest memories? Keep that in mind and feel free to share any special family dinner traditions you might have with our Facebook Group HERE.

That concludes our Annual November Dinner Challenge! Stay tuned for next year!

Be Wise!

 

It is the third week in our “Come to the Table” dinner challenge – and it is a “gimme” – because it is also Thanksgiving week! If you want to see what we’ve been up to this month, join our Facebook group here.

We have been talking about EATING and PLAYING, and this week our focus is on TALKING.  Families often have a tough time talking together, and it is no secret that dinner is a perfect time for families to connect.

So how about using this Thanksgiving dinner as a chance to have a great conversation together!

What are some things that your family members are thankful for? What are your family members’ hopes for the future? What is something that they want to set as an intention for themselves in 2019? If they could only eat one type of pie for the rest of their lives, which one would they pick? I would pick banana cream pie, personally.

To help get the ball rolling, and to keep the mood from turning to politics and religion (two of the top topics to argue about), we’ve shared a great printable of conversation starters for the dinner table. Print it and put it on the fridge to use both on Turkey Day, and throughout the year!

To you and yours, a very Happy Thanksgiving. Be Wise. 

 

Have you been participating in our “Come to the Table” dinner challenge? If you haven’t, and you want to, join our Facebook group HERE

I’ll be available to answer questions this week in the group and to share some insights on the challenge around getting all of your family folks around the table together to eat! It isn’t easy, but it IS simple. 

Simply look at your schedule, pop a frozen pizza in the oven and stare into each other’s eyes lovingly!

HAHA!

Ok, maybe not. But meals together, in fact, everything together should have an element of fun. So let’s figure out a way to make your meal together this week a fun experience for everyone!

Last week, we said “EAT”. This week, we say, “PLAY”. In fact, we might rename our challenge – EAT, PLAY, TALK! What do you think? Your parents may have told you never to play with your food – and we’re not talking about recreating a scene from Animal House! We’re talking about incorporating some simple games into the meal time experience – here are a few ideas (and special thanks to our friends at Harvard University for the suggestions) –

Roses & Thorns (all ages) 
Ask your kids to tell you about the rose (the best or most special part of their day), and the thorn (the most difficult part of their day). This helps avoid the “good” response to the question of “How was your day”.

Alphabet Game (ages 3-8) 
As a group, choose a category, such as animals, countries, singers, or “people our family knows.” One family member starts the game by naming a person/thing from that category that starts with the letter “A.” Then the next person names a person/thing that starts with the letter “B,” the next person finds something for the letter “C,” and so on.

List Game (ages 3-8) 
Think of 4 things that “belong” to something. For example, a banana, a pair of shoes, a Harry Potter book, and a jacket. Then have your family guess what these things belong to (answer: things in the back seat of my car). With little kids, you can just ask them outright for a list of things in a category (example: name three things you might find in the refrigerator).

Would You Rather (all ages)
Take turns asking “Would you rather….?” questions. You can either purchase a book of these questions, or make them up as a family. These are great ways to get to know how folks in your family think! And it can also be a pretty fun to see how people try to get out of either!

A few ideas to start: 

  • Would you rather be invisible or able to fly?
  • Would you rather sweat melted cheese or always smell like a skunk?
  • Would you rather be able to swim like a dolphin or run as fast as a cheetah?

Create a Story (all ages) 
One person starts a story with one sentence. They can use a traditional story format (“Once upon a time, there was a huge bear…”) or something completely original (“A woman carrying a large cake was walking down the street…”). Go around the table, and have each person add a sentence to the story.

Where in the World? (all ages) 
Imagine everyone at the table has the gift of teleportation, but it only lasts for 24 hours. Where in the world would you go? Would you bring anyone with you? How long would you stay? What would you do there?

Ask Your Kids (all ages) 
Your children are also likely to know a few games, either from school or playing with friends. Ask them if they have a game they’d like to try at the dinner table!

Would you hop on the FB group or hit “Reply” to this email and let us know what you did with your family! Extra credit for posting a picture or video of your family playing!

Remember – This week is about PLAY!  

Play and Be Wise! 

 

Since you are already a member of The Wise Family, you might already have seen this in our “Stay Tuned” section.

And we are SO EXCITED!

Get ready for our Annual Wise Family CHALLENGE called “Come to the Table – Family Dinner Challenge”.

Families in this challenge will find time for dinner together at the table, enjoy some good food and fun, and add tons of talking topics to their conversation recipe box!

Here’s what you’ll get out of the FREE Come to the Table Dinner Challenge this month – 

  • Strategies and time hacks to get your family sitting together for an evening meal
  • Kid-tested ideas for meals that everyone will enjoy
  • Links to scheduling and meal planning tools
  • Topics to talk about at the table that get everyone engaged
  • The joy of seeing your dream dinners together become a reality

The goal of The Wise Family “Come to the Table” dinner challenge is simple…EAT. The hard part is adding TOGETHER to the plans! Having a meal as a family has become more challenging than ever before for families.

Never fear, however! The Wise Family has some things figured out – and we’re here to get you all to the table – EATING TOGETHER! We want to encourage your family to plan ONE family dinner together each week for the next 3 weeks – and you already have a freebee in there if you celebrate Thanksgiving.

Dinner looks different for every family. Maybe you have never really eaten together, or most dinners are spent in the car running from soccer practice to piano lessons. Or maybe you have dinner together every night and your conversations have gotten routine, like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Whaw, Whaw, Whaw, Whaw”.

This might be the start of something new for you, so no matter what, we all begin at the beginning – one dinner and one conversation. You are all planning to eat anyway, right? Imagine the magic that could happen…

STEP 1: Take a look at your schedule this week. If it is mid-week or the weekend, take a look at the next 7 days and find one night that you know that everyone can be together for dinner and stay at the table for at least 30 minutes without having to run off to finish the science fair project. Mark that date on the calendar!

STEP 2: Pick something easy to prepare that everyone will eat. It might be a picnic dinner with take out Chinese or a candlelight supper of spaghetti and meatballs. It doesn’t matter. Just make it simple.

STEP 3: Plan some conversation starters (we’ll also share some later in the month). Open-ended questions (questions that require more than a “yes” “no” or “I don’t know”) are a good place to begin. “Tell me about something you learned today that we might not know.” “What would you do if you won a million dollars?” You get the idea.

STEP 4: Call everyone to the table! And give it a go!

Share your experiences with us, and in our Come to the Table Challenge Facebook group HERE.

You can even post a picture of your family eating together in the group!

We’ll be back next week with ideas for food and fun at the table! Meanwhile, Be Wise!

Dr. Amy Fortney ParksOwner of The Wise Family:

As I write this note to you, I am sitting on the couch with a bowl FULL of Reeces’s peanut butter cups! We did not have ONE trick or treater. What a bummer! I bought candy, lit candles, have the door open and someone on our street is playing spooky music. We set up the whole scene, and not one Harry Potter or Princess Leia in sight.

Reminds me of the nights that I worked my tush off to make a nice dinner, and everyone either ate and rushed off to a sports practice or event, or looked at the dinner and said ‘YUCK”!

Have you ever worked hard to make something special for your family, to then have it fizzle in your face? Well, Happy 1st Day of November – and the 1st day of our November Dinner Challenge!

As folks that work with families everyday, and who have families ourselves, we know what it is like to want the family to get together for a meal, or to have a tradition that inspires FAMILY SPIRIT!  So we created the FAMILY DINNER CHALLENGE to encourage and support you in your efforts to bring everyone to the table! Before we start the FAMILY SPIRIT cheer, let us share a few thoughts about the importance of rituals and traditions for your family.

And share this email with friends – or look for the FAMILY DINNER CHALLENGE info on Facebook and Instagram to share with other families.

WE GOT SPIRIT, YES WE DO, WE GOT SPIRIT, HOW ABOUT YOU? And lots of left over candy TOO!

 

Dr. Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Family rituals are a time to grow and bond as a family. Even as children become teens and teens become young adults it is important to keep these traditions. These rituals can be during the holidays or on a weekly or monthly basis. The fun thing about rituals is they can evolve to meet the needs of each generation while having the same impact on a family. Think of this set aside time as a way to connect with each other and to pass along traditions and the family’s culture that one day your teens or young adults will share with their family.

The wonderful thing about rituals or traditions is they can start at any time and with any event or activity. So if your family does not have one it is never too late to start one!

 

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Family rituals, or traditions, are simple- just something your family does together! With the various activities and commitments each family member has, rituals help to develop belonging and create connection with each member of the family. Kids thrive on routine so family rituals just take them one step further.

We don’t have to wait for a holiday to have a ritual and it doesn’t need to be something showy or expensive. If your family ritual is something simple and inexpensive it’s likely to be something everyone will look forward to and easy to do regularly. You might already have a family ritual that you don’t even consider a “ritual”. Rituals could be family movie night on Friday, pancake breakfast on Sunday, or a family bike ride every other weekend and each will be unique to the family. Whatever it is just make sure the whole family is involved and have fun!

 

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Routines and rituals are repeated patterns of behaviors. Some may happen naturally while others may be intentional. Routines provide order and predictability in an often frenetic world. It is important to teach a child flexibility in case the routine is disrupted for some reason or another, but it is equally important to work towards maintaining the routine. Routines serve as a way to help young children learn important life skills such as self-care (ex. brushing teeth at least two times daily) and time management (ex. setting aside time for daily tasks while still allowing time for relaxation/play).

Rituals often hold a more sentimental meaning. They express a sense of belonging and identity in a family unit. Example of rituals include but are not limited to cultural traditions, holiday celebrations, vacations, shared family mealtime, yearly seasonal activity such as apple picking. Both routines and rituals are important to the social, emotional and academic growth and development of children. But you don’t just have to take my word for it. A review of over 50 years of research on family routines and rituals identified improved marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement and stronger family relationships as benefits of routines and rituals.

Reference: “A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?,” Barbara H. Fiese, Thomas J. Tomcho, Michael Douglas, Kimberly Josephs, Scott Poltrock, and Tim Baker; Syracuse University; Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 4.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Illustration: Keith Negley

This week, The Wise Family wanted to share some Wise Words from Glennon Doyle, author, activist, philanthropist and founder of Momastery.

It’s easier said than done to let your child face a challenge on their own but it’s our job to guide them and support them whether they succeed or fail. Life happens!

*****

“What if it has never been our job—or our right—to protect our children from every incoming bump and bruise? What if, instead, our obligation is to point them directly toward life’s inevitable trials and tribulations and say, ‘Honey, that challenge was made for you. It might hurt, but it will also nurture wisdom, courage, and character. I can see what you’re going through, and it’s big. But I can also see your strength, and that’s even bigger. This won’t be easy, but we can do hard things.”

 

Until next week, Be Wise!

Image (c) Getty Images


The Number #1 reason that kids and teens come to see us at The Wise Family is because they are experiencing anxiety – anxiety at home, at school, in social situations, taking the SAT, even out having a pizza with friends.

The ability to handle anxious feelings has become so difficult for kids and teens because it has become to easy to hide from them – avoid them – or soothe one’s self into feeling something else all together. This month we are launching two LIVE Teen Talk high school groups – one for girls on Mondays and one for boys on Thursdays. One of the primary goals of the groups is to help teens build the resilience they are so seriously lacking – that kind of mental toughness that contributes to strong decision making and confidence even when times are tough! And times are often tough when you are a teen.

The article attached gives you a bit more insight into why we are seeing such an increase in anxiety among kids and teens. Next week we will share with you some really helpful ways to do something about it!

 

Until next week, Be Wise!