by Ali The beginning of school has been pretty hectic around our house. Just finding the balance between school, work, lunches, dance and homework has left my two girls and I feeling frazzled at times. This feeling of frazzled has, unfortunately, migrated to bedtime. My youngest daughter, now 10, has always had what I’ll so lovingly call “sleep issues.” From a colicky baby who needed to be rocked to sleep to a child, to a toddler with night terrors, to a kid who spent most nights in my bed, she still has difficulty both falling and staying asleep at night. Needless to say, stress doesn’t help the matter. In comes a new strategy we’re exploring called Mindfulness For ChildrenBasically, Mindfulness is the art of paying attention to your life and your surroundings on purpose, without judgment. The recent studies I’ve read say that Mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress in kids (and adults) and them develop social and emotional intelligence, resulting in better self-awareness and less stress which leads to happier kids. And I’m all for using it to help DD relax and fall asleep – after all, when she sleeps, I can sleep. So here are a few of the ways we’ve been trying to introduce Mindfulness into our day:
When we’re out for a walk, whether it’s to the corner store or just around the block, we are now starting to really pay attention to our surroundings. I will ask her to feel her arms move as we walk. I ask her to notice how her feet feel as they hit the ground. I encourage her to pay attention to her five senses – the sights, sounds, smells, feel and taste of the walk. DD finds this a bit amusing but we’re getting better at it.
I find this one is best before bed and helps to settle DD. We spend a few minutes just listening to the house. We try to guess what the sounds are and what’s making them. This also helps because my daughter has a lot of fears about sounds and being alone at night. When we try to make sense of the noises, she calms a bit.
This one has worked the best for us when I’m trying to settle my daughter before bed. We lie on her bed together and focus on our breathing. She’s pretty good at it, we’ve practiced relaxation since she was little as a way to relax and calm down. We focus on breathing in – holding it—and then focus on our breathing out. I often talk her through the breathing saying things like “In with all the good, night time thoughts, and out with all the stress of the day. Often, in the middle of the Mindful Breathing, my daughter will finally settle and then I hear her deep slow breaths turn into sleeping breaths (my very favorite sound). These techniques aren’t perfect and they do take some practice but it really has helped my daughter and me at night, especially at 2 in the morning when she’s awake (again) and we need to start all over.
If you have any sleep strategies for older kids, please share! I’m all ears!