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(212) Mindfulness for Kids That's Actually *Do-Able* (and Why It's Important)

Join Sara Olsher and Danielle Bettmann as they dive into the world of mindfulness for kids. We all know that teaching kids to be mindful can be a challenge, especially when their brains (and bodies) are constantly on the move. But fear not! In this episode, Sara and Danielle share practical tips and strategies to make mindfulness fun and accessible for kids. From actually easy-to-do journaling to gratitude practices, they've got you covered. Discover how to help your kids pause, reflect, and navigate their emotions like pros. Get ready to bring some joy and balance into your family's life. 

Balance Journal: Find it here.
Danielle's Website: Parent Wholeheartedly



Sara Olsher:
Hello friends. Welcome back to the Raising Resilience podcast. I am Sara, your host from Mighty and Bright, and I'm here with Danielle Bettmann. We are talking today about mindfulness as it relates to kids because I feel like along with growth mindset, mindfulness is something that a lot of parents recognize has benefit, and they are searching for ways to make their kids more mindful. And that can be really difficult. I mean, it's like, how do you teach somebody whose brain isn't even developed that they need to take a deep breath? They're like, now you're trying to teach them how to breathe into their belly and they won't sit still for any reason. I mean, they're sitting there watching TV and bouncing all over the place. So how do you teach a kid mindfulness if you cannot get them to meditate? This is what we are talking about today. And so Danielle, welcome. Let's chat about this a little bit.

[00:01:15.170] - Danielle
Yes. I feel like there is so many products now or incentives for teaching us, the generation of parents who were not given or modeled any emotional intelligence do speak of. And we are catching up and trying to learn ourselves while also unlearning all the unhelpful things we picked up along the way and also trying to teach our kids to do differently and better than we did. And it's a lot. It is confusing, understandably. And a lot of the advice, honestly, is overwhelming and conflicting because we have so much information at our fingertips now. It feels like if our kids aren't doing a daily yoga practice and meditation and breathing practices when they're angry and communicating all of these things to us with a high level of vocabulary, then we're failing as parents, and yet we aren't doing any of those things ourselves at the same time. 

[00:02:20.570] - Sara
No, because it's so hard. I mean, how many people have you talked to that are like, I have decided to take on meditative mindfulness so that I can really experience every moment to its absolute fullness. And then five minutes later, they're like, Screw that. I couldn't stop thinking about what was for dinner and the fact that I forgot to get the carrots. And then I was thinking about how carrots are a really weird vegetable. And then I was feeling really guilty that I planted a garden and then it all died. And it's like, I can't do this. I give up. I'm done.

[00:02:53.830] - Danielle
Yeah. And then something bad happened in the world. And then we're doom scrolling again. And then it's all fine.

[00:02:58.180] - Sara
Exactly. So what I think one of the things that I feel like we are all about is making this a reasonable thing and recognizing that everything is a work in progress. And so while our end goal might be for our kids to be able to recognize, oh, I'm having a feeling that might be the beginning of my completely melting down and turning into terror and terrorizing the whole household. We can't just go from zero to that because as adults, it takes so much practice to get there ourselves, recognizing when we are triggered and we have fully developed brains. So what are the steps to get us to that? Yes.

[00:03:52.470] - Danielle
The first step is awareness because you can't solve a problem you can't name or genuinely don't realize is a problem in the first place or contributing at all. So our kids are relatively unaware of a lot of aspects of their humanity because their executive function of their brain is still catching up. And they can easily become overstimulated or in a trans state where they're not listening to their bodies and they're not realizing that there's changes happening or things going on that are creating these patterns. They're very present in and of themselves where that's why they have such visceral high highs and low lows is because they are more present than we are. So we can give them a little bit of credit in that respect because there is no Zooming out and worrying about the past and projecting into the future nearly as much as we are. So there is that aspect of their thought process, but we want to be able to help them zoom out a little bit to look at the big picture of their wellbeing as a whole and realize what things are contributing, realize what's even going on, what's all at play, and how to set themselves up for more success because we all want to feel good, we all want to be happy, we all want to be relatively carefree and enjoying our lives. But that takes intentionality. And how can we be intentional if we don't even know what makes us feel good?

[00:05:30.520] - Sara
Totally. One of our previous podcast was talking about balance and wellbeing. And basically what we did was we looked at the dimensions of wellness, which are basically talking about how we can balance our lives, what it is that we need to do every day in order to feel like we have well being. And those things were like, some of them were not applying to kids. And so we made it apply to kids more. One of them was occupational things. So basically feeling happy in your work life. Obviously, that doesn't really apply to kids. So what we did was we created a whole thing around balance for kids that includes emotions, physical activity, social, intellectual, and spiritual. And basically trying to make kids aware of the fact that you have an opportunity every day to do all of these things. And we're not saying, oh, hey, kids, you have to do all five of these things every day. But to recognize that and make you aware that if you are doing nothing but video games all day long and you have no balance, that that is probably why you don't feel very well. And so we have a whole poster and we have a placemat, and we also have a journal that takes this concept of balance and turns it into a daily practice of checking in with yourself.

And that is a really great step of like, oh, hey, today I'm thankful for this, this, and this. And gratitude, friends, research is just unequivocal about how beneficial it is to practice gratitude. But also this is putting into place that mindfulness, that self care. It's super cool and it's also way doable. So let's talk about how we can incorporate mindfulness with a journal into our kids lives and what that does.

[00:07:51.900] - Danielle
Yeah. I think one of the core principles of mindfulness is taking a pause, just physically and mentally and emotionally stopping for one second, five seconds, five minutes, and just being able to give space to process and for our brains to catch up with our bodies and to be as present as we can be and create some intentionality in how we're going to move forward after the pause. And I think that that is how a big reason why a practice like journaling can add the structure you need to be able to do that successfully. Because great intentions don't get us very far. We know that with any type of self development practice, it is very hard to stop yourself and go against all of your prior conditioning and instincts and do the right thing when you're supposed to all the time. And that's why we're not taking on really big exercise practices and trying to be unreasonable with our expectations of ourselves. We just need to be able to pause, think about what we need, and then move forward with a plan for how to meet that need. And that's really the core basis of a really blank journal.

But for kids, they need a little bit more idea of what that looks like, a little bit more help of what they should be thinking through, and just a couple prompts to make that accessible at the age. And that's what we created.

[00:09:31.260] - Sara
Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the things that makes the Balanced Journal different than other journals is that we're really helping to, at a time when they're forming their opinion about the world, we are guiding them toward understanding the value of certain things, but in a really subtle way. So that whole gratitude piece, like for each undated day. So you don't have to do it every day if you fall behind your night, you don't need to feel terrible about yourself. But today I'm thankful for, and they can either draw out something or they can list it out. And then they're looking in at the rest of the day, like, I'm excited about this thing. I'm nervous about this thing. And then making a plan for how they are going to take care of themselves, which honestly is a great thing to do during the summer, would be a great thing when there's less structure of like, Okay, how am I going to actually plan this out this day so that I am not just eating chips and doing the same thing all day long? And you're all getting on the same page, but it's led by the kid.

And then there's a feeling face. So this morning I feel like, what do I feel like? And then they're drawing in the little face, I feel like an angry beast, or I feel just calm. And then later on, you check in in the evening and you say, okay, this evening I feel like this. This is also, by the way, friends, a reminder to your kids back to our tool for really managing emotions, that when one thing goes wrong, it doesn't mean that the entire day was bad. So being able to have this blank space in the Journal at the end of the day to really reflect on what happened during the day. They can either write it out or they can draw it out. And it really is just like a sandwich to your day where you're getting into this habit of mindfulness. And it's really powerful. Yeah. I think we just summed it up, didn't we? We're like, Okay, we don't have any more words for this one.

[00:11:53.960] - Danielle
No, it's so good and kid friendly and really not asking a whole lot of it's not intimidating. It's very much like, here's a couple prompts. What do you need today? Respond to what is on your heart. And if it feels like, oh, yeah, you know what? Actually, we have been traveling and I feel very stiff and we haven't really been moving or walking a lot. We've been in the car. My body needs something physical today. It's a lot healthier way of thinking about meeting our needs that is not shame based, that is not fear based, that is not trying to create an ideal or have reallyicky motivations. It's just being able to recognize that we are whole people and for our balance for our wellbeing, for our well being, for our happiness and for our overall health, it has to be multifaceted and we have to really think about it in order to do it well. And that doesn't mean 60 minutes of high intensity cardio. It can mean a very simple walk around the block or taking the dog out to play. So making that feel much more attainable is probably going to be something where parents are going to be buying them for themselves, too, because it just feels better.

[00:13:16.110] - Sara
I mean, can you imagine, as you were talking, I was thinking, can you imagine what a difference it would have made in your life if you had had this concept taught to you as a child? I think about some of the days where I've just been going, going, going, going, especially when I used to work in a corporate office and how it was so totally unbalanced and weeks and weeks would go by. And I would have not stopped to reflect on how I was feeling. And all of a sudden, I just hated everything and hated everyone and felt terrible and got sick and was totally clueless about what it was that was causing this. And I think if we had been taught this stuff as kids, it would have been a game changer for me in a lot of situations in my life where maybe I would have made flat out different choices about what I was doing with my life. Because if I had taken some time to reflect on it and be like, I'm looking at this and I actually have not seen a friend in three weeks. No wonder I'm upset. No wonder I don't feel good.

Or I'm completely neglecting the part of my spirit that needs to touch animals. I think it would have made it so that I got burnt out less often and my stress level wasn't so high. It would have been a game changer.

[00:14:52.170] - Danielle
And you wouldn't be jumping to conclusions like, you're just a bad person that can't handle adulthood or something or other non helpful all the conclusions that our brain jumps to. And like your book, you can't believe everything you think. So much of our thoughts about our life are very perception based, and our perception is very skewed. I know my stronghold daughter comes home from a day at summer camp, and the only thing that she's fixated on is the one thing she didn't like that happened. Bad day because of this one thing happened, and I didn't get to... She told me yesterday that they were playing some game, and it's like a mystery game, and you're supposed to like... It's like you're being the imposter, but she was called out right away because somebody shared a clue about glasses. She only wanted glasses. And that just ruined it for her. But after I could pull that out of her, then her perspective shifted. She could zoom out and then think about, Well, actually, there's a myriad of other things that were good about the day that were actually really fun. But it's her brain working against her intention to want to enjoy the day and want to enjoy the life.

It's just refixate. And that's a productive mechanism our brain does. And we love it, but it's not always the thing that is serving us the most. And that's true of our kids, too. So if we can give them just a little bit of structure, a little bit of prompts, a little bit of things to pull some of that out of them, that just can just shift your overall experience of life on a day to day basis in a really big way.

[00:16:31.270] - Sara
Yeah, I think that's a really incredible point. When our kids have a tendency to do that, or we have a tendency to do that, our lives are made up of these moments. And when we choose to focus on those negative moments because we never took a step back to be aware of the things that were positive, that is a life that is built on negative moments. And that brings us down. And it brings down the mood of your entire household because somebody's always complaining about something. And we can get real frustrated with our kids. Okay, you just got back from school and you have literally nothing positive today, and it triggers us. And that is just like a cascade of like, if you're not mindful of your own triggers, then it's like, that kid was triggered, that triggered you. Now everybody's pissed off all because somebody got called to help her wearing glasses. And that was the one thing that happened in the day.

[00:17:35.840] - Danielle
Yes. And we end up seeing more of what we focus on. So the more that we fixate on the negative things, we're going to see more reasons and more evidence that backs up that narrative. And I don't know about you, but I don't need more negativity in my life.

[00:17:53.800] - Sara

II really don't at this point.

[00:17:53.800] - Danielle
I really don't. I'm good on that. But it takes active work to pull that out and be able to move us forward into something more positive and actually zoom out and find the things that we're grateful for because they don't come as quickly and as instinctually and as naturally as those negative things. That's just how we're wired.

[00:18:17.760] - Sara
Yeah. And I think just to sum it up and put a little bow on it, this is the idea right here behind Mighty and Bright's tools is you don't have to use our journal to do this stuff, right? But our goal is to make it so that these things that are really complicated and feel really hard can be made easier. And there's just a little bit of structure in place where you're like, Oh, I don't actually have to come up with this plan by myself. I could just give them this journal and read this power up, and now I know how to do this in a way that does not involve me reading a 250 page parenting book and then trying to devise a plan out of it. So if all you do is listen to this podcast and make your own journal, you're winning at life. Yes. Just to make it easier for you.

[00:19:16.420] - Danielle
Simplify it and make the main things the main things. Let everything else go. It's going to be okay.

[00:19:21.460] - Sara
Totally. Thanks so much, Danielle. Of course.