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Mindful : December 2013
PRACTICE Breathing Buddy This is a fun practice you can do together as a family. To begin, get a small weighted stuffed animal for your toddler or school-age child, or a smooth river rock for a tween or teen. This is their “breathing buddy.” Then, everyone lies down, places a breathing buddy on their belly, and tries to make it rise and fall with every inhalation and exhalation. It’s helpful to encourage everyone to slow their breathing by counting to three on the inhale and back down to one on the exhale. This is a tool your children can use to calm them- selves in stressful moments, such as when they are feeling anxious before a test or after a tension-filled spat with a friend. For smaller children it can be helpful to create a story incorporating the breathing buddy to get them more engaged. Our most meaningful moments occur when we slow down and tune in to the simple things in life. That’s not always easy to do—other things in life can seem so important—but when you do stop and regain your per- spective, it benefits you, your par tner, a nd your children. It helps fa mily members regulate emotions during try- ing times, creates flexibility and creativity, and cultivates gratitude, empathy, a nd compassion. you rebound from your mistakes instead of spiraling into shame, you’re modeling resilience. There are also more active ways we can teach our chil- dren mindfulness. We can find creative ways to inspire it in them—not trying to impose it but simply plant- ing the seeds. You can start by working with mindful- ness of emotions. Even when children as young as two are upset or happy, you can nur- ture self-reflection and emo- tional intelligence in them. You can help them identify and label their emotions and where they feel them in the body. That will lay the foundation for doing this on their own. That may take a while, so just remember—you are simply planting seeds. Be sure to take it slow and check in: How are you feeling right now? How do you imag ine your child is feeling? “ Breathing Buddy” is a practice used by ma ny people who work with children and mindfulness. In our CALM (Connecting Adolescents to Lea rning Mindfulness) program, we have had success using it with young children, tweens, and teens. It’s very easy to do with your own children. When we learn to be grateful for the good times and graceful during the tough times, it opens us up to real life, not a distracted and automatic version of it. Remember, raising a mindful family that includes yourself, your partnership, and your children is a practice: you will not be perfect. When you stray from your intention, forgive yourself. In that moment you can discover something vital: you can always choose to begin again. ● in practice insight 76 mindful December 2013