Stress can affect everyone in the family. Your kids can get stressed by school work, friends, and lots of after-school activities. You can get it from work or being busy with carpool and keeping everyone happy. All that stress can lead everybody to make unhealthy choices -- like skipping exercise to veg in front of the TV or choosing junk food instead of eating healthier.
Teach your kids that it’s important to learn healthy ways to beat stress. Relaxing and recharging gives us the energy and focus to make healthy choices.
One great way to ease stress is with meditation. It's an easy, fast, healthy way to relax, and it can make you feel better. It's easy for you to teach the kids. You can even practice together.
How to Start
There are no rules about where to go, how to sit, or how long to practice when you meditate. The key is to find what you and the kids like.
"Part of the challenge, like with diet or exercise, is to find the way that will work for you and that you'll continue with," says Tobin Hart, PhD. He wrote The Secret Spiritual World of Children and is a professor of psychology and the University of West Georgia.
A simple way is to start is to get comfortable. Sit or lie down in a quiet place where you won't be disturbed.
Then focus on your breathing. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Place your hand on your belly or your chest if that helps you stay aware each time you inhale and exhale. Follow your breath as it comes in. Follow it as it goes out.
You'll probably notice your mind start to wander. You might think of errands you have to run or an itch that you want to scratch. That's OK. Just recognize that it was on your mind and re-focus. When your kids get distracted, encourage them to gently bring their minds back to their breath.
For some people, it's easier to focus on a mantra they repeat in their head instead of concentrating on breath. Have everyone find a word that relaxes them like "peace" or "love." Have them say it slowly to themselves as they breathe in and out.
Or, you may find it's easier for you and your kids to meditate while moving rather than sitting still. Getting out in nature and walking can be calming. Once you lace up and head outside, find a gentle rhythm. Now's not the time for a powerwalk.
Instead, once you all are on the sidewalk, talk to the kids about being present. Explain what that means. It means being aware of things around you. Have everyone notice the sky and the trees. Ask, "How does the ground feel under your feet? Do you feel a breeze or warmth from the sun on your skin?"
Feel how your body moves as you take your steps. Have everyone repeat their mantra to themselves, if they like. Or have everyone just focus on their steps.