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5 mindfulness lessons adults can learn from kids

Unlike many preconceived notions, mindfulness meditation isn’t actually thinking about nothing.

5 mindfulness lessons adults can learn from kids

Editor's note: As we ease into 2018, so many of us want to find balance and awareness—easier said than done. That's why we loved this excerpt from Kate Coombs's new book, Breathe & Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems. Find your zen, mama!


Maybe you're a reluctant meditator. Or, more likely, you have a friend or family member who doesn't want to try meditation (although you can clearly see that meditation would be a real help to this person).

Without being dismissive or judgmental about their concerns, you might suggest they try following the simple lessons of a children's meditation book. Teaching mindfulness helps kids (and adults!) learn to stay calm, regulate their emotions, and appreciate the world around them.

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Children's books are full of wisdom and beautifully told advice, and can help plant the seeds of mindfulness, compassion, and kindness that will benefit you for a lifetime.

So if you know a reluctant meditator or are one yourself, here are five lessons every adult can learn about mindfulness from a child's whimsical perspective:

1. Unlike many preconceived notions, mindfulness meditation isn't actually thinking about nothing.

Instead, you think about your breathing while letting your other thoughts settle down. By focusing on your breath, the many competing, nagging, or even agitated thoughts you might be having will slowly quiet down.

How I rush rush rush!

Thoughts flutter and dart like birds.

Slow down, thoughts.

Come quietly with me.

There is time to breathe and be.

2. Meditation is about calming yourself.

There's a lot of stress and fuss and worry in our daily lives. Meditation helps us to take a step away from all that and look at it from a more peaceful perspective. Hopefully we can bring that perspective with us during the rest of the day.

When days crash thunder

and throw lightning around

I am still, watching.

I am a calm umbrella

inside the blue and gray storm.

3. Like anything else, meditation takes practice. That's why the emphasis is on being nonjudgmental. When you notice your strong feelings and distressed thoughts you simply acknowledge them for what they are and let them go. You use your imagination to turn each leaf into a different worry or sorrow and then watch them float away.

I watch the stream.

Each thought is a floating leaf.

One leaf is worry,

another leaf is sadness.

The leaves drift softly away.

4. Try to breathe from the diaphragm or abdomen rather than taking light, high breaths from your chest area.

Breathing for meditation is the opposite of hyperventilating both in terms of action and your state of mind. There's something calming about breathing thoughtfully, breathing a little more slowly than usual. Meditation works better that way.

I breathe slowly in,

I breathe slowly out. My breath

is a pathway of peace

moving softly through me.

Each day I can breathe and be.

5. There are things you can do that will help you get in a mindful mode besides traditional meditation.

Some people find mindfulness by going out in nature and just listening to the wind in the leaves of the trees or watching the waves roll onto the shore as they let go of their jumble of everyday thoughts for a little while.

A related mindfulness exercise is to create a quiet place in your mind. This can be based on a peaceful place where you like to be in real life, such as the forest or the beach. But you can use your imagination to make your quiet place into anything you want. Once you have designed your quiet place, go back to it in your mind whenever you are feeling stressed. Take a seat and rest there or walk through your quiet place garden.

I see myself

by the ocean, toes touching sand,

fingers find a shell

at the edge of the water.

Where is your quiet place?

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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@9_fingers_/Twenty20

As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.

Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.

I say it a lot at work, too.

Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.

The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.

I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.

It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and the list of things I didn't get to or didn't do well bears down on my shoulders and my heart, and all I can think is, "I am failing."

And I think that maybe I'm not alone.

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