Authored by Diana Charkalis
“I’m not tired yet.”
“I’m thirsty. Can I have a glass of water?”
“But everybody else gets to stay up till 10.”
Many parents struggle with getting their crying babies to sleep. But as kids get older, and more verbal, new challenges can arise that make the promise of a good night’s sleep still seem like a dream.
But there’s hope. Applying a dose of mindfulness is one way to help ease zzz-resistant little zombies into a more slumbery state, says Susan Kaiser Greenland, a natonally recognized leader in teaching mindfulness to kids and teens and the author of The Mindful Child. “Bedtime is a fantastic time to practice mindfulness because you’re already beginning to wind down, and it’s an opportunity to slow down even more and just relax the body.”
Lull Little Kids … Mindfully
It’s an age-old tradition that most parents do without giving it a second thought: A bath and a book and then time for bed. It’s all pretty well mapped out and usually does the trick for younger kids, especially when they know the drill. But when it doesn’t work, that may be the time for parents to pause and refocus.
“How often do we go through bedtime rituals and our minds are someplace else? They’re on work or checking email or rushing through, as opposed to really being attuned to what’s going on with our kids,” Greenland says. “Mindfulness is about bringing a quality of attention to the experience, not just being there in body. That requires effort and it’s a huge gift.”
Ease out of Your Own Stress
Being able to transition from a hectic day at work to a calm and peaceful nighttime routine is no easy feat for any parent. It’s easy to find yourself overtired or tense and edgy. So it’s important for mom or dad to find a way to relax themselves beforehand, so they can be attentive, flexible and calm with the kids. Having your own practice is ideal for this, Greenland says. “The only reason we meditate is so that we can apply what we learn on the cushion and take it out into our real life.”
But she recognizes not everyone who values mindfulness is interested in or able to meditate. If you don’t have a practice, “Try any mindful activity, even if you just sit and listen to music or read a book or look at a magazine. It can be anything that allows you to carve out a little time for yourself.”
Mindful by Example
Getting older kids to develop good sleep habits often requires a more hands-off approach, Greenland says. And it’s all about the modeling. Current research suggests that healthy sleep habits include powering down all our devices well before bedtime. So if parents can “show, don’t tell,” and practice turning off their phones and iPads early, it can have a profound impact.
It’s also about being present. For example, if your teen comes home from being out with friends, try turning off the TV and asking them about their night. “They may not want to tell you, but at least you’re available for it,” Greenland says. “So much of it is just about having them know that you’re there and really there, not just in body but in mind and attention.”
Try the App: It’s Free!
Before you shut down all devices for the night, check out the Stop, Breathe & Think Kids app, which offers a collection of relaxing missions designed to encourage winding down from the day. Free animated video missions for kids 5-10, co-created with Greenland, include:
Bulldog Finds His Quiet Place: See how this pup learns to “breathe quiet” in and out, despite the noisy neighborhood around him.
Butterfly Bodyscan: Kids envision how a magical butterfly, created from their own imagination, can help them gently relax each part of their body.
Rockabye: By placing a favorite stuffed animal on their belly, kids practice using the breath to relax.
NEW ACTIVITES TOO!
Periwinkle’s New Friend: Periwinkle makes an unexpected friend when she asks the new kid at school to sit with her at lunch.
Periwinkle’s Peaceful Place: Periwinkle’s grandma is moving away and she is going to miss her a lot. Imagining her grandma in a cozy and peaceful new home, Periwinkle’s spirits are lifted as she sends her grandma kind wishes.
Periwinkle Listens: Busy busy busy with schoolwork and chores, Periwinkle takes a break and learns to relax by listening to the sounds around her.