My intention in contributing a blog entry on Mindfulness Monday of Children’s Mental Health awareness week was to write about all the active choices we can make and practices we can teach as parents to ensure our children’s mental health. But a couple of days ago, I witnessed something that has been more influential in what I want to say today.
As my husband, Brian, and I get ready for the day (and get our children prepared as well) we take turns showering, dressing, eating. I am sure that most of you parents out there do this as well. It is a precarious balance some days to get life moving in the A.M. with children. I took my shower and was getting dressed in the bedroom, while Brian was with my daughter, Maya, and son, August, in our living room. I could hear everything that was going on and as I eavesdropped, my family played.
Maya, who is 2, had engaged the others in a game of “monsters”- not the scary kind, the giggly, roaring, lets-hide-in-the-couch kind. It was an elaborate scenario that included the 9 month old baby! They were fully engaged and I felt profoundly lucky to have been able to witness this and overjoyed for my children that their father would be willing to delve so fully and happily into imaginative play.
And this is what I learned:
Sometimes the best way to ensure your children’s mental health might be to abandon the routine. I honestly could not remember the last time I was completely in the moment with my children the way that things were unfolding in the living room that morning.
My husband may have made a conscious choice to stop all the morning routines that we know are so necessary, but I like to think that his impulse to follow my daughter’s imagination had actually been the mindful choice.
And my choice, that turned out to be mindful as well was to sit back, listen, and appreciate the beauty of my family’s connections to one another. It is possible that in doing nothing, I had done everything that my children needed.
Today’s Mindfulness Practice Take time to witness your children and what they have to bring to the world. Listen to who they are, what they want to do, and follow their lead if possible. Create space for this by designating a time without TV, computers, phones, etc. You may only need a few moments in a day that is usually very busy.
Post contributed by Elizabeth Dukes. Elizabeth is trained as an art therapist and works as a therapist serving children and their families in South Carolina. She has also worked in community mental health and most recently with children and families affected by childhood trauma and abuse. Elizabeth received a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College, where she focused on studio art, and a master’s degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School, where she specialied in art therapy. She is most passionate about the visual arts, yoga practice and motherhood.