My youngest daughter has been having trouble getting to sleep in the last couple of weeks. The bedtime gratitude bodyscan I wrote really helps. It allows her to interrupt her now-habitual thoughts and place her attention on something more soothing and calming — her body and a feeling of gratitude. It captures her imagination and provides almost instant relief and release. Many parents have told me the gratitude bodyscan is providing transformative relief for their children, too.
Tonight, I started to describe a practice my girls could use during the day, whenever they are feeling sad, angry, frustrated, worried, scared or overwhelmed. It worked well for my youngest at night, too. In fact, as I was speaking, she politely asked me if it would be OK to go to sleep. I said it would be a lovely way to go to sleep, and she promptly did so!
It is a child-friendly version of a practice I wrote for my online Mindfulness4Mothers program and my kids took to it straightaway.
It is based on the pioneering research on self-compassion and self-soothing by psychologist Kristin Neff. Her work has shown that we can significantly reduce anxiety, depression, and self-criticism by doing practices such as these. Adding a physical gesture of kindness, such as placing your hand on your heart, makes it even more powerful.
Here is how it goes:
“This is a little tool you can take with you and use whenever you are having a feeling that is troubling you — just like Daddy has tools in his shed. You might be feeling sad or angry or frustrated, worried or scared, or just a little bit “not-quite-right.” This will help you feel better.
Take your hand and place it on your chest where you can feel your heart beating. Close your eyes and see if you can feel it under your warm hand. Now, breathe in and out …. slowly at first …. and then just your normal breath. Imagine you are breathing into your heart with each breath.
Now just put the smallest little smile on your lips and imagine that you are breathing that smile, breathing love, right into your heart.
You know we love you and that you are cared about. So just imagine breathing that love right into your heart with each breath.
You are safe. And you are loved.
Keep that little smile on your lips and breathe that feeling of being cared about into your heart with each breath.
You know, you can do this anytime you want to feel better again.
Because that love is there for you whenever you need it.”
Sometimes we make mindfulness more complicated than it needs to be. With children, just the simplest practice can make all the difference. In this practice, children who are disturbed by repetitive thoughts or feelings they don’t need to explore can settle their minds through anchoring their breath — and the safety they feel in your love for them.
May you be well.
Bedtime photo available from Shutterstock