Mindfulness practice with young children can be valuable in improving their emotional literacy, just as it can with anyone else. Regularly noticing your own thoughts and feelings in mindfulness practice can help with verbalising them through increased awareness. Because my way of using mindfulness with my children is to make it activity based, for example gardening or art projects, then there is usually reciprocal commenting on our experience throughout interspersed with more introspective pauses.
I try when I notice my own emotions to verbalise them to my daughter to model the conenction between the feeling, the word and the experience that goes with them. I aim to share a mix of positive and negatively valenced emotions, and to avoid blame. A positive emotion example might be “I love baking apple muffins, I’m really proud of our teamwork today and of how well this recipe has turned out”. A more negative example might be “I’m really tired tonight, do you think we could try to brush your teeth quickly then snuggle up to do your bedtime stories?”
I’ve recently noticed a big increase in her emotional vocabulary when describing her own experiences, such as “I’m frustrated that this hat won’t go on my doll”, “Babies crying are annoying”, “I’m more enjoying the pasta than the meatballs”. I’m aiming to particularly encourage her to voice negatively valenced emotions at the moment so she feels able to be open about her feelings during the coronavirus lockdown at home, and so that generally she learns that I’m open to hearing about all feelings, not just the positive ones – since all are part of life, and however much I might want her to experience more of the happy than sad times, it’s not realistic. I want her to lead a satisfying life following her own values, so I want her to learn to tolerate and later manage all her feelings in a way that facilitates her development and character growth. I’ve noticed that the more she can vocalise her feelings and I can attune my parenting responses to what she needs, the fewer instances of toddler meltdowns and tantrums we see. I’ve also noticed that where I empathise with her feelings and make an effort to attune, she seems to try with mine, and asks more questions now about my experiences – particularly what I was like at her age, as I’ve been identifying a lot of similarities. I’ve found sharing my memories of being her age with her helps me connect more with where she’s at and strengthens our bond. It helps reduce the times I make adult assumptions about her feelings and behaviour which are appealing short cuts sometimes – eg that she is seeking attention – but often inaccurate.
#mindfulness #emotional literacy #parenting