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We Took A Moment To Learn How Mindfulness Can Help Us Parent Better

Mindfulness is a way to be aware — of yourself and what’s going on around you. Join Aetna and #takeamoment. See how you can improve your relationship with your children through the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a growing movement that encourages people to take a minute to notice their body and its surroundings. To get a little more information about mindfulness, what it is and isn’t, and how people new to mindfulness can begin practicing awareness, we spoke with Cheryl Jones — Aetna's Director of Mindfulness, who is trained in mindfulness and completed the Teacher Development Intensive in Mindfulness-Based-Stress Reduction (MBSR).

What parenting pitfalls can be avoided through mindfulness?

Cheryl Jones: Mindfulness helps us embrace the positive moments so we can get through the challenging ones. We become able to notice the thoughts that deplete our energies, put us in a bad mood, and keep us up at night.

What benefits can mindfulness bring to a parent, specifically?

CJ: Mindfulness helps you be patient with yourself and others. It also will help you respond rather than react when you feel angry or frustrated. Mindfulness helps you notice when you’re being hard on yourself and then cut yourself a break.

How would you suggest parents fit mindfulness into their busy schedules?

CJ: There’s nothing to fit in. Mindfulness is not another thing to add to your to-do list. It’s a state of being. It’s about giving yourself permission to pause and be present for whatever’s happening in the moment both inside you and around you.

Can children practice mindfulness?

CJ: Children already know how to live in the present moment, but here’s a fun activity you can try: Ask them to lie on their back and place their favorite stuffed animal on their tummy. As they breathe in and out, ask them to notice how their animal moves up and down. Ask them to tell you how this feels.

What benefits can mindfulness bring to children?

CJ: Mindfulness can help children relax, focus, and feel in charge of their emotions.

How can parents encourage practicing mindfulness with their families?

CJ: Modeling how to be present in the moment can be done during conversations, at mealtimes, and while driving. Try this fun family activity: Prepare a plate of foods. Ask each person to close their eyes. Pass around one snack at a time, and ask each person to smell each. And then identify the smells.

Are there any tricks for making practicing mindfulness “fun” for children who are easily distracted?

CJ: You don’t need to call it mindfulness. Here are two activities you can try: 1) Ask them to stand up and do 10 jumping jacks. Then stop and place their hand on their heart and notice it beating. Ask them to notice that once they stop moving, their heartbeat slows down. 2) Ring a bell. Ask them to stay silent and listen to the sound. Ask them to raise one of their hands when they can no longer hear it. Ask them to tell you about the sounds they heard while listening.

all images via ThinkStock

Learn more on how to practice mindfulness with your family.

Check out the video below for inspiration:

View this video on YouTube

This content is sponsored by Aetna. It is for general informational purposes only, and is not meant to replace the advice, diagnosis, or treatment of a physician or other health care professional.