The holidays can be hectic and stressful, even under the best of circumstances. But this year, due to the pandemic, many of our favorite holiday experiences may be different or put on hold. Concerts, performances, and big celebrations will likely be cancelled. Large family gatherings may be impossible. Shopping for gifts may have to happen online. You can still make the holidays special by slowing down and savoring the beauty and meaning of the season. This revised post from 2018 about creating a mindful holiday with your family provides pandemic-appropriate strategies to encourage your child to use their senses to notice what makes the season special, plus some Magination Press titles that may be helpful. You can give your family the gift of calm this holiday season by practicing mindfulness together. A silver lining of the pandemic’s change of plans is that it allows you more time to notice the beauty of the season. You don’t need to sit silently and meditate; you just need to slow down and be in the moment. You can model holiday mindfulness for your child by putting down your phone and other electronics and being present for each experience. Encourage your children to focus on their five senses and their hearts throughout the season. Here are some ideas to bring mindfulness to many common holiday activities and tasks: Concerts, plays, and other performances: These events will happen differently this year. Seek out favorite or new musical, theatrical, or dance performances online or happening outdoors in a socially distanced way. However they happen, these events are a feast for the eyes and ears. Encourage your child to watch and listen carefully. Ask them to think about how watching and listening to the performers makes them feel. At intermissions and afterward, talk about what each of you found the most beautiful, surprising, funny, or sad during the performance. Even if you don’t see a holiday performance, your family can create one of your own, singing favorite holiday songs or acting out favorite stories. Magination Press books Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music by Michael Genhart and My Singing Nana by Pat Mora explore how families enjoying music together can bring a family together. Decorations: Even if you don’t decorate your home for the holidays, you’ll be surrounded by decorations in your community. The sights, sounds, and smells can be captivating. Lights are a big part of many winter holidays, whether they are candles, twinkling lights on trees, or big displays. Talk with your child about lights as you see them or as you light candles. Why do they think lights are such an important part of many winter holiday celebrations? How do the lights make them feel? What are their favorite kinds of lights? Share your tradition’s stories about the role of lights. Many of our holiday decorations have a distinctive scent: pine, melted wax, spices (think Gingerbread houses or clove and orange pomanders). Even fire in the fireplace–not necessarily a holiday thing, butRead More
Toddlers are all about gaining independence. Learning to use the potty is a big step, and very exciting for everyone involved. The bridge from diapers to independence can seem long and rickety to parents. The process will be easier if you understand that your child is the one to build that bridge, not you. Magination Press’s Terrific Toddlers series, written by Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush, covers the day-to-day dramas most experienced by toddlers and the adults who care for them. This revolutionary and unique series is the first ever to handle the topics in carefully researched, developmentally appropriate ways for toddlers. Here’s an excerpt from the Note to Parents and Caregivers in Terrific Toddlers’ Potty!, providing tips about how to support your toddler as they learn to use the potty. Your child needs these two things in order to succeed in potty training: Physical readiness: Children need to... Feel the sensation of needing to pee and poop, Understand what the sensations mean, and Control the muscles that hold and let go. This takes neurological development that happens at different rates for different children. Emotional readiness: At the same time, children need to... Understand what is expected of them, and Follow step-by-step instructions. Sometimes they must also overcome fears—of the elimination process itself, (what other parts of me will fall out?), or of the toilet and its loud flush and the gush of water that could suck them down with their poop. Some ways you’ll know when their bridge building has begun: They seek out squishy substances like play dough and mud, They find a way to tell you they are noticing full or wet diapers, They become obsessively curious about others' toileting habits, They stay dry longer, They start refusing diapers. To help them build their bridge it’s best not to: Compare your child with others, Equate potty training with maturity, Punish accidents—your child really can’t help it, Overdo prizes—their own accomplishment is their own reward. ...and it’s best to: Stay calm and matter-of-fact, Be prepared for accidents, Expect variation—sometimes something will come out, sometimes it won’t—two steps forward, one step back… They may shout, “No!” a lot, but your children really do want your approval, and they know you want them to use the potty. Eventually they will gain mastery over their bodily functions, and they will be as pleased and proud as you are. Remember—barring a disability that prevents it, every child becomes potty trained. Yours will, too!Read More
Breathing as a Means to Mindfulness
One way to practice being mindful is to focus on breathing, and understand the role it plays in helping us feel calm, relaxed, and focused. In the Magination Press Family bookstore, you’ll find an assortment of kid-friendly, APA-approved books that explore breathing exercises you can try with your child, such as Breathe by Inês Castel-Branco, which uses illustrated exercises to help children become aware of their breath and their bodies.
The uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone feeling a wide mix of feelings: anxiety, boredom, grief, confusion, frustration, and loneliness to name a few. Helping children recognize and identify their feelings is an important life skill that will be useful long after the pandemic is over. This repost from April 2018 from Magination Press author Lauren Rubenstein, JD, PsyD, explores how we can use mindfulness to examine emotions in a calm, thoughtful way. Take a minute right now to pay attention to what’s going on around you. What do you hear or see? Do you notice anything new? Now, turn your attention inward. What are you thinking, and how do you feel? Mindfulness—as you just experienced—is tuning into yourself and paying attention to the present moment without judging or analyzing what you are thinking or feeling. Although it seems quite simple, it is not easy. Our busy minds are constantly darting and drifting, telling stories about what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future. For children and teenagers, mindfulness is a powerful tool that can enhance many aspects of well-being. As parents and professionals, we can encourage children to be mindful, to cultivate emotional intelligence through their senses, and to reflect on what they learn. Linking Mindfulness and Emotions In order to connect mindfulness to our emotions, we can use the idea of “visiting” our feelings. We can encourage children and teenagers to sense, explore, and befriend all of their feelings with acceptance and equanimity. Emotions and feelings are neither good nor bad, neither acceptable nor unacceptable. Rather, they are simply present-moment experiences of felt sensations. Instead of trying to suppress or undo feelings, we invite children to explore their feelings with their senses and even converse with them. Awareness of how feelings can lodge in the body, as conveyed by common expressions like “a pit in the stomach” or “a lump in the throat” is a form of emotional intelligence. This awareness helps children and teenagers handle any feelings that may arise with equanimity. It also helps them mindfully gain sensitivity to their bodies as rich kaleidoscopes of information. They can cultivate this emotional intelligence through their senses by learning to explore the range of emotions they encounter within themselves on a daily basis. Encouraging Mindfulness Mindfulness can take many forms. Physical practice includes yoga, tai chi, martial arts, and even mindful walking. In fact, any activity can be done mindfully—for example, brushing your teeth, putting on your socks, or practicing the piano. There are many simple exercises you can do at home to help teach your child to be mindful. Reflection activities can be introduced seamlessly into your family routine. Remember: “Short times, many times” is ideal, both in terms of cultivating a mindful brain and fitting practice into busy schedules. For example, before a family meal, have each person at the table name three things they are grateful for. Discuss where the food came from and express gratitude forRead More