kids

"My family did a free mindfulness program for a week. The kids have never been more calm."

Medibank
Thanks to our brand partner, Medibank

COVID-19 has certainly thrown us some curveballs. While I’m enjoying spending more time with my family, the juggle of work plus home education has been tough.

In the early days of ‘iso home school’ my family felt frustrated, tired, grumpy and overwhelmed. But in the last week things have turned around.

We’re feeling more calm, focused and connected thanks to a handy mindfulness app for families.

The Smiling Mind Family Program has been created in collaboration with Medibank, their Official Health Partner, and it’s a game changer for families navigating the ‘new normal’. And it’s free.

We incorporated the program into our daily routine for a week and I was surprised at how willing every member of the family was to embrace it. Even the dog seemed to bark less!

The program gets a massive tick for dividing mindfulness exercises into various sections based on the time of day or time of the week – meal times, any time, bedtime, weekends, and on the go (not that any of us are going very far these days). This makes it super easy to integrate the program into your routine.

Doing our best tree, still working on the ‘steady’ bit. Image: Supplied.

We started by introducing the ‘Steady as a Tree’ exercise in the morning to get us ready for a day of distance learning. If the kids started to lose focus during their lessons, we paused and did the ‘Brain Break’ meditation which uses deep breathing to refocus the mind.

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This was a huge help when I felt like I was losing patience with the kids. It definitely helped to keep our home learning environment positive and productive, at least most of the time.

My kids' favourite exercise was ‘Find Your Happy Place’, which involved each of us visualising a place where we feel happy, calm and safe.

My seven-year-old’s happy place was at the beach with the sand under his feet, the sun in the sky and the cool water splashing against his body. My five-year-old had a little more trouble sharing the details of his happy place but said it was a park with lots of green grass that he could lie down on.

A quick ‘Brain Break’ to keep us all calm and focussed. Image: Supplied.

After two successful days of integrating the exercises into our school day, I decided to introduce mindfulness into our meal times and bedtime.

Too often my family rushes through meals, wolfing down a big serve without really tasting it. I also deal with a fair bit of fussy eating which drives me nuts (seriously, who doesn’t like cheese?).

The ‘Savouring’ session provided us with some great suggestions for being more present during family meals. We paused and took three long slow breaths together before dinner. This encouraged us to be more aware of nourishing our bodies and grateful for the ingredients and effort that went into making the meal.

Some ingredients have been hard to come by lately. My sons did giggle a bit but I’m hoping that as time goes on, they’ll get more used to stopping and reflecting before gobbling and guzzling.

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Finding mealtime mindfulness exercises was really easy using the app. Image: Supplied.

I’ve found that routines are imperative in navigating isolation and the inevitable crankiness that comes with being in each other’s company 24/7.

Without school playtime and after school sports, my kids went from flopping into bed at 8pm to being rowdy, unsettled and still wide awake until nine. As a result, they woke up moody and the whole day was a bit of an emotional disaster. The ‘Getting Ready for Bed’ exercise made a BIG difference. In under five minutes, the kids went from being totally wired to blissfully drowsy.

The next night we tried the ‘Bedtime Story’ exercise which had an equally calming effect on the kids and us! The exercise encourages kids to imagine their favourite park. As they envisage lying on the grass they are asked to imagine their friends around them, the sky above them and the grass beneath them. The story painted a wonderful image of space and good company during a time when the kids are really missing play dates at the park and time with their friends.

I honestly can’t think of a better exercise for families living through this time of isolation. It reminded us of the life waiting on the other side of all this.

When the weekend rolled around, we continued to try different mindfulness exercises on the app. There is a section specifically for weekends that includes exercises like ‘Family Outing in Nature’, ‘Mindful Cooking Activity’ and ‘Getting Ready for the Week’.

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For our Mindful Cooking Activity we made pizzas together, a weekend treat. While kneading the dough we focused on the texture of it beneath our hands and the way the dough changed as we worked with it. As the dough proved the kids observed the way it was changing in size.

And while adding topping to our pizzas, we discussed the different ingredients we were adding. Through smell and taste, we noted the sweetness of the pineapple and the saltiness of the ham. It was a great way to transform our cooking experience and the kids were way more appreciative of the end result.

Well done, boys. Image: Supplied.

Medibank and Smiling Mind's Family Program is an absolute lifesaver as we navigate the challenges of isolation. It has helped us feel more calm and connected which has improved our focus, patience and receptiveness to learning new things.

It has also encouraged us to appreciate the things we take for granted like good food, a comfy bed and each other. I look forward to continuing to use and explore the program during isolation and long after. It’s a definite winner for this fam.

Download the Smiling Mind app today (on iOS and Android) and find the Family Program under 'All Programs'.

Feature image: Supplied.

Medibank

Download the free Smiling Mind app today (available on iOS and Android) and navigate to the Family Program under All Programs.

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