As moms, we all need a helping hand. Everything I need to do as an adult: work, parent, exercise, shop- it’s all overwhelming. When I think about how much the world has changed for kids over the past few years, I can’t begin to imagine what they are feeling. A mindfulness and vision board exercise can really help children cope with stressors.
Have you ever taken a drive as an adult along a route that was a common drive for you as a kid? Did you notice that the five-minute ride felt like forever when you were younger? The topic of how time feels has been tackled by physicists, neurologists, and psychologists. Many of the theories suggest that the lack of experience and decreased points of reference we have as kids made time seem longer.
When I saw this explanation, it made sense to me why March 2020 felt like its own year. Right? It was like returning to a childhood experience of time. For the first time in my adult life, so much of my existence was new again. As a parent, it’s good for me to have this experience to draw from because maybe, for a second, I can get a deeper insight into why time feels so long to children.
What contributes to stressors for kids?
Adjustment (or lack thereof) to new schedules, routines, and roles are some of the primary stressors that kids mention- although not in those exact words. I know I feel this in a very real way. Finding a rhythm that works feels at times like chasing an elusive fairy that I have yet to catch.
The truth is our kids are feeling this, too, all the time.
They are mourning the loss of roles and developing new ones without even realizing it. This shift happens so quickly, out of necessity, however, that we really have to take time to observe if we are expecting too much too quickly of ourselves and our children. There are physical and emotional signs that more attention should be given to this area. According to sources like Johns Hopkins Medicine, these symptoms can look like impulsive actions, anxiety, feelings of sadness, hopelessness, withdrawn attitude, and lack of concentration. Many of these emotions are totally normal and can be worked through in a reasonable period of time, however, if you notice any of these in a child for a prolonged time please check with a medical practitioner for more assistance.
What can we do as parents to support our kiddos through difficult times?
I’m not trying to tell you I have all the answers to this question because God knows, I don’t. I’m trying to learn as we go along, the same as all of you! That being said, the two things I can share with confidence are the value of mindfulness and vision exercises.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to only the current moment. There are mountains of studies supporting the use of mindfulness with children to help them work through transitional phases in their lives, cope with difficult emotions, and even improve their ability to pay attention.
Mindfulness expert and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, John Kabat-Zinn has described mindfulness practice as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. I have worked professionally with adult clients exploring the benefits of mindfulness and vision board creation. A vision board takes the principles of mindfulness and applies them to mindful planning for the future and visualization.
What exactly is a vision board?
A vision board is a craft project you create with your own hands on a piece of paper which becomes a tangible depiction of a specific vision for the future.
It is a way to represent future intentions acting as a visual reminder over time. This is a great way to flip the script on our current situation which can have a fair amount of loss, confusion, and frustration. Creating real images of their thoughts and hopes for the future enables your child to get in touch with ideas and concepts they may not know how to communicate. As I explain whenever I lead this activity, please don’t feel like it’s only for your kids. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and dig into this. Grab some scissors and paste, lead by example, and get all the same benefits as your kids through this process!
There is something so valuable about creating art. Art your child creates is unique to them, it belongs to them and they can’t be told it’s right or wrong. And a vision board represents what they want for their future. It may change 50 times depending on the day but that’s the beauty of this exercise. Making art in a therapeutic way can provide personal insight as well as healing.
Oh, what?!? Not feeling very zen? Is your house full of chaos, laundry, and half-naked kids? Good, so is mine. Before you and your kiddos start on your vision board journey, maybe take a few minutes to get into the “mindfulness” state of mind. Here is a favorite guided meditation in our house, from Cosmic Kids Yoga. It’s just a 5-minute video and can set the tone for the activity below.
Mindfulness and Vision Board Exercise for Kids:
To say that we have been limited in activities and sacrificed some of our favorite things over the last few years is a bit of an understatement. Exploring these losses with your kids can be beneficial for both of you. Working on mindfulness and vision board exercises can open the conversation between you and your child about what they are really feeling.
Ask them open-ended questions to encourage reflection and awareness of feelings, and to promote excitement for the future:
- What do you miss? Answers could be friends, family school, playing at the park, or anything else.
This acceptance of loss can be sad, maybe even a difficult emotion to communicate. That being said, it is also a wonderful jumping-off point to bring the principles of vision board creation into the mix. It helps start the conversation about planning for all the wonderful things they love in the future.
- What are you excited to do again? Answers could be to hug a grandparent, go to the beach or even to go to a favorite toy store.
This can allow for the expression of hope and desire to engage and be involved again. It may give insight and spark ideas about how you can bring some of their future vision into their current situation.
- Who are you looking forward to seeing? Friends, family, neighbors. This can give you a good feeling about the important players in your child’s life
- What are you hoping to do in the future? What does your child’s vision for the future look like? It’s a window into their desires and may not even be something you thought they valued. This gives you and your child an opportunity to learn about each other.
This is when you bring out any or all of the following:
- old photographs
- parent-approved images from the internet, and magazines
With inspiration from the open-ended questions and the craft supplies mentioned above, you and your child can create a visual depiction of their dreams for their future. They can create what their ideal day/trip/playdate looks like. They can think about adventures they are most looking forward to.
Encourage them to use words, real pictures, and or drawings to fill the board with meaningful, supportive, and relevant images.
Display the finished product in a place where your child can see it and be reminded of the goal they want to work toward.
In our house, my daughter is looking forward to having an exciting Carmen Sandiego-themed 5th birthday party with all her friends from school. She was so proud and excited for this to be her future.
Are you planning on doing a mindfulness and vision board exercise with your kids? Have you done this activity already? Let us know how it went. Share your vision boards with us in the comments!
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Guest Writer: Ann Marie Dundas
Ann Marie Dundas is a partner and mama to an awesome family of 3 including her wonderful fur baby. She makes it a point to always be learning and growing personally and professionally. Ann Marie loves gardening/foraging, health and wellness, herbal and functional medicine, and anything crafty.
Follow Ann Marie on IG @Whole_Life_Healthy_