This site was developed by Kwantlen Polytechnic University nursing students as an assignment for a course in the BSN-Advanced Entry program. This site includes mindfulness guides and resource sections for well families with children of different developmental stages including conception and pregnancy, infancy, toddlerhood, pre-school, childhood, adolescence, and for parents at different stages including young adult, middle-aged adult, and older adults.
To access particular guides and resources for specific age groups, click on the titles of the posts, or use the sidebar menu to the right to navigate the various sections. We hope you enjoy these resources and find value in their content.
Conception is generally defined as the “union of a single egg and sperm” (Perry, Hockenberry, Lowdermilk, & Wilson, 2010, p.172). Once conception has occurred, pregnancy begins. When talking about conception, it is important to mention preconception, as changes that occur during this time affect the conception period directly. It is also important to note that conception involves achieving it as well as preventing it. The following information will focus on conception and how mindfulness techniques can help achieve it
Preconception refers to the time before conception occurs. During this time, nurses and health care professionals can act early and provide education to promote health such as obtaining adequate rest, eating a well-balanced diet, and exercising regularly (Perry et al., 2010). It is also important to assess for risk factors that could potentially hinder a healthy pregnancy, such as chronic conditions and lifestyle habits including diabetes and substance misuse. Once a thorough assessment has been made, interventions can be put in place to improve health outcomes and chances of conception.
Infertility: Why is this happening?
The preconception stage can include the unfortunate period of infertility. Infertility is important to talk about when discussing conception as it is common in about 15% of couples accessing the health care system (Perry et al., 2010). Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive despite at least one year of unprotected intercourse (Campbell, 2014). Infertility has become a common concern for couples due to the change in conception age that has occurred over time (Baird et al., 2005). Because today’s couples are delaying the age of conception and increased age is associated with declining fertility, many are struggling to conceive. It is important to note that fertility declines with age in both males and females and therefore, can affect both sexes.
The struggle to conceive can be for unknown reasons for both partners but can also be attributed to ovulatory disorders, tubal damage, uterine concerns, and the male partner specifically (Campbell, 2014). In order to diagnose infertility, various assessments need to be conducted such as a history for female and male, lab work, and physical exams (Perry et al., 2010). Following these assessments, it is possible that the couple may need to undergo fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization. The process of these assessments and treatments can be emotionally and physically taxing for couples, which can further hinder fertility (Li, Li, Long, Liu, & He, 2016).
Mindfulness & Conception: A Concept
Mindfulness has been used with some success to promote mental and physical well-being in those struggling with infertility and conception. Mindfulness is essentially awareness and it can refer to what is happening, how it happens, and when it happens (Willett, 2018). Mindfulness during conception or while trying to conceive can help couples live in the moment and become more aware of negative emotions in order to transform them. Mindfulness intervention for those struggling with conception has been known to decrease both anxiety and depression symptoms. The use of mindfulness on conception and fertility was demonstrated by Li et al. (2016) in a study of mindfulness-based intervention for women undergoing in vitro fertilization. Li et al. (2016) focused their study on interventions such as mindful breathing, thought and feeling awareness, and discussion of mindful attitudes such as acceptance and letting go. They found that women struggling with fertility who were practicing mindfulness-based exercises weekly had significantly better quality of life and a higher incidence of pregnancy than women in the control group, who did not practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness group therapy also proved to be protective against depressive symptoms and negative thoughts in those struggling with infertility and conception in a study by Galhardo, Moura-Ramos, Cunha, & Pinto-Gouveia (2018) focused on mindfulness-based programs. Galhardo et al. (2018) found that women who received mindfulness-based therapy that promoted self-efficacy suffered from less depressive symptoms related to infertility compared to those who did not receive the therapy. This is significant as difficulty conceiving is associated with feelings of decreased self-efficacy, which can contribute to feelings of depression. The group-based therapy allowed women to voice concerns regarding their difficulties with conception such as, “what if this does not work?” without suppressing them. This, therefore, allowed for these feelings to lose some of the impact and power they had on their self-efficacy and consequently, feelings of hopelessness associated with depression decreased.
How can I be mindful?
Mindfulness does not necessarily come in the form of group-based mindfulness therapy such as the above. Because of the toll that infertility can take not only on physical, but mental health, methods to prevent depression and anxiety in couples with infertility have been created. One of these methods includes a mindfulness app called MindfulSpot(Monteiro, Galhardo, Cunha, Couto, Fonseca, & Carvalho, 2016).
MindfulSpot was created for those struggling with infertility to use on mobile devices as it provides text and audio content focused on the practice of mindfulness. The app allows users to practice mindfulness during anytime of the day and also provides users with information on some of the ways that infertility can impact quality of life.
While limited data has been collected on the effectiveness of MindfulSpot, it was specifically designed to help those struggling with infertility to cope through the use of mindfulness.
Any person struggling with infertility and its emotional and mental effects can use the mindfulness techniques described in the MindfulSpot app above to facilitate conception. Mindfulness techniques focus on awareness and improving perceptions of one’s self in order to deal with difficulties with conception. Knowing that it is possible to succeed and cope through mindfulness can prevent those struggling with conception from developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is important to note that not all those who struggle with depression need Mindfulness -based therapy or support. However, mindfulness-based interventions have been proven to decrease negative stress that can further hinder conception (Li et al., 2016).
The following are some resources that can be accessed for more information on this topic, starting with a video we made to help you relax and practice mindfulness.
Try Our Mindful Breathing Video
Video created by Emily Hannaford and Andrea Acosta, 1:41 minutes, November 2018 in Adobe Spark Video
Mindful Conception Resources
Essential Baby:Trying to Conceive
The Essential Baby website welcomes the user with many different topics related to family life including conception, pregnancy, birth, babies and toddlers. The subsections related to conception covered in this website include trying to conceive, fertility, ovulation, in-vitro fertilization, adoption and fostering, and surrogacy. There is also a sub-section whereby the user can access tools related to conception such as an ovulation calculator, a due date calculator, a baby name forum, and recommended baby product listings. The website interface is user-friendly and displays images to give the viewer insight to the content of each hyperlink.
The Pregnancy and Fertility Website To Help You Get Pregnant Now!
BabyMed is a website aimed to promote guidance for couples trying to achieve and maintain a healthy pregnancy. The creator of the BabyMed website is Dr. Amos Grunebaum. He is an OBGYN and professor at New York Medical School. His inspiration to create this website stemmed from the realization that many existing websites provided inaccurate information surrounding the topic of conception and pregnancy. Topics covered under the “getting pregnant” tab include before trying to get pregnant, getting pregnant, sex and getting pregnant, fertility awareness, ovulation and fertility, preconception planning, and special circumstances. As this website covers a wide range of relevant topics, it would be wise to enter into this resource with an open mind as there is quite a lot of information.
BabyCenter Canada is a website-based community dedicated to providing medically reviewed information and support to couples actively trying for a baby, new parents, and those who are expecting. The authors recognize that bringing a baby in to the world is a pivotal moment in a parent’s life and aims to create a smooth and joyful transition into parenthood. The information available on this website originates from medical professionals such as obstetricians, pediatricians and midwives. Research and fact checking each article BabyCenter publishes is one of the ways that they ensure the quality of the website’s materials. Topics specific to conception here include trying for a baby, sex and contraception, as well as infertility and trouble conceiving.
This community prides itself on being a welcoming space to help address questions and concerns related to conception and parenthood. They value presenting well- rounded perspectives to address problems and recognize that conception and pregnancy can be a very individual experience.
The Office on Women’s Health is an organization that takes a leading role to improve the health of women by providing education and awareness (via information sharing, programs, and activities) surrounding women’s health matters to both the public and health professionals. This website is well designed with an organized layout and appropriate headings to help the user navigate the site. The subject matter related to conception on this website includes fertility awareness, fertility pattern charting, infertility, when to see your doctor, counseling and support groups. The drop-down menus guide the user to further information on each heading.
This resource has a famous background since it was developed by the author of the book with its same name! The content on the website comes from the brand “what to expect” which is directly from the book written by Heidi Murkoff. The site offers advice on topics from pregnancy to what are the best baby products on the market. The very first tab seen on the site is called “getting pregnant” and by clicking it, individuals can access information on preconception and what to do before conceiving as well as an all-you-need-to- know section on fertility. The fertility section offers tips for conceiving, such as eating fertile friendly foods for both males and females! The What to Expect brand also offers the information on their site via mobile apps and are free of charge.
The Pathways To Parenthood for LGBT people is a website from the National LGBT health education center. It guides the reader through various clinical case vignettes to exemplify certain questions or issues that LGBT couples may encounter while considering the idea of having a baby. The document then transitions into a discussion of information and resources that can be considered in response to the issue presented in the vignette. For example, one of the vignettes addresses the idea of two male partners considering surrogacy. The discussion following the vignette guides the reader about what information is important to consider in relation to surrogacy such as traditional and gestational surrogates, estimated surrogacy costs and known and unknown egg donors. Other topics addressed throughout this document are adoption and foster parenting, donor insemination and IVF, and organizational support for LGBT parents.
HealthLink is a trusted resource whereby the user can obtain medically-approved information by phone, the website, or the Healthlink app. HealthLink offers a way for users to find health services accessible to them whether they need to find health resources located near their residence or health information available in their native language. There is a wealth of information that is returned when the user searches ‘conception’. Included in these topics are how pregnancy (conception) occurs, ethical and legal concerns of infertility, insemination and infertility, tips for healthy pregnancy habits, and fertility problems. The great feature of this resource is that if you prefer to seek out information in private, the website is easy to navigate whereby the user types in a keyword into the search bar and is then directed to information related to that topic. If the user prefers to speak over the phone with a healthcare professional including a nurse, pharmacist, or dietician in real-time, that option is available to them by dialing 8-1-1.
The Fertility Matters website is a great resource for those who are struggling with fertility and conception. All of the information on the site is written by Canadian fertility doctors who provide the information on a non-profit basis. These Canadian doctors aim to provide individuals with information regarding conception and fertility that is easy to understand. One of the strengths of this resource is that it normalizes the stress that accompanies the difficulty some couples have conceiving and offers to provide help. There are various options available to those who visit the site and it is not just for those who are struggling with conception. The site offers tips for those who have decided to start trying to conceive as well as those who have been diagnosed with infertility. One of the key features of this website is a question and answer section whereby individuals can address their curiosities and receive dependable answers in a timely fashion.
This is a visual and auditory representation of the process of conception. It demonstrates how the sperm cells race to the egg cell, the dissolution of the egg’s membrane, and the fertilization of the egg by one single sperm cell leading to the formation of a zygote and subsequently the embryo. This is a valuable resource because it offers a different way for the viewer to learn about conception. While this video is quite brief, as it is just over two minutes long, it’s an appropriate resource to use as a starting point if the targeted audience has an interest in the biologically process behind conception but is wanting to avoid becoming overwhelmed with the level of detail found with other resources.
SexandU is a Canadian website supported by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada aimed to provide relevant and credible information about sex. The range of topics include sexual activity, LGBTQ awareness, STI’s, contraception, pregnancy, and consent. The section addressing conception defines what ovulation is and discusses specific fertility awareness-based methods (i.e. basal body temperature, menstrual cycle tracking, ovulation kit) of detecting the fertile window in an effort to target successful conception.
Baird, D. T., Collins, J., Egozcue, J., Evers, L. H., Gianaroli, L., Leridon, H., Sunde, A., Templeton, A., Van Steirteghem, A., Cohen, J., Crosignani, P. G., Devroey, P., Diedrich, K., Fauser, B.C., Fraser, L., Glasier, A., Liebaers, I., Mautone, G., Penney, G., & Tarlatzis, B. ESHRE Capri Workshop Group. (2005). Fertility and ageing. Human Reproduction Update, 11(3), 261-276. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmi006
Campbell, T. (2014). infertility. Nursing Standard (Royal College of Nursing (Great Britain) : 1987), 28(40), 18-18. doi:10.7748/ns.28.40.18.s25
Galhardo, A., Moura-Ramos, M., Cunha, M., & Pinto-Gouveia, J. (2018). How does the mindfulness-based program for infertility (MBPI) work in reducing depressive symptoms? Mindfulness, 9(2), 629-635. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0805-z
Li, J., Li, M., Long, L., Liu, Y., & He, W. (2016). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on fertility quality of life and pregnancy rates among women subjected to first in vitro fertilization treatment. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 77, 96-104. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.010
Monteiro, B., Galhardo, A., Cunha, M., Couto, M., Fonseca, F., & Carvalho, L. (2016). MindfulSpot: A mindfulness mobile app for people dealing with infertility. European Psychiatry, 33, S609-S610. doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2016.01.2279
Perry, S., Hockenberry, M., Lowdermilk, D. & Wilson, D. (2010). Maternal Child Nursing Care (4th ed.). Maryland Heights, MO: Mosby
Willett, E. (2018). Being Mindful – Having a Positive Outlook When Trying to Conceive. Retrieved from https://natural-fertility-info.com/mind-over-matter.html?fbclid=IwAR2x9tjxG e8EvVc4fxlRhiC4_9q3MoGPcy7lAT1bU6am0KS1rJIqajgAXeo
Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment and maintaining an open mind while remaining aware of what is going on around you, without judgement (Sheridan, 2016). This includes paying careful attention to what you are experiencing in any current moment, whether it may be a physical sensation, thought, or feeling, and doing so with purpose, intention, and acceptance.
Tapping into a state of mindfulness and resisting thoughts about the past or future can be difficult, and like any skill, tends to improve with regular practice. The most important thing to remember about mindfulness is the need to be kind to yourself as you acknowledge the details of your experience in the present moment, and simply remain curious and receptive to what is there instead of immediately deciding whether it is good or bad. You can start by practicing mindfulness for just a couple of minutes daily!
The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness During Pregnancy
There are numerous benefits to practicing mindfulness throughout various stages in life. Becoming more aware of what your body, mind, and surroundings are telling you is a form of self- care practice that can help you develop new coping strategies and stay happy and healthy (Sheridan, 2016). While this is useful in many different situations, it can be particularly helpful during pregnancy, when so many new changes are occurring. Practicing mindfulness throughout the prenatal period has been shown to reduce feelings of depression, distress, and anxiety associated with pregnancy, as well as worries related to labour itself, and improve overall mood among expectant mothers (Krusche, Dymond, Murphy & Crane, 2018).
Considering that prenatal depression is not only a predictor of postnatal depression but can also have a direct and significantly negative impact on the entire family unit, mindfulness may be especially useful in the appropriate management of intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness during pregnancy (Krusche et al., 2018). Furthermore, practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve pain management by separating physical experience from mental and emotional experience, allowing for increased emotional control over pain tolerance (Bonura, 2018). As a result, this can have a direct and positive impact on pain experience throughout pregnancy, specifically with regards to common complaints such as lower back and pelvic girdle pain.
Mindfulness Exercise Ideas
Yoga is a popular example of mindfulness exercise which includes not only a physical component focused on stretching and strengthening, but also breathing, deep relaxation, and mental meditation (Bonura, 2018). There are often numerous prenatal yoga classes offered throughout the community which focus on providing more of an intimate and personalized experience for expectant mothers specifically, as well as an opportunity to connect with and support one another (Bonura, 2018).
Other mindfulness exercise ideas that combine physical activity with both breathing and focus strategies include martial arts such as Tae kwon do, Kung fu, and Karate, as well as traditional Chinese mindfulness practices like Tai chi and Qi gong (Bonura, Spadaro & Thornton, 2016). Although women who lack previous experience with martial arts may be advised to choose mindfulness exercises that are gentler, those who have engaged in such activities prior to pregnancy may be able to continue enjoying them after consulting their healthcare provider and modifying their practice as needed (Bonura et al., 2016).
Two specific mindfulness activities that can be practiced independently at home include the following:
Begin by moving into a comfortable seated position down on your mat, placing a cushion beneath you for additional support if desired, and crossing one foot in front of the other. Bring your knees wider if needed to ensure that your belly rests comfortably onto your lap and relax your hands down on your knees. Take a soft gaze and then close your eyes as you bring your awareness to your breath. First pay attention to its natural rhythm and then slowly begin to deepen the breath. As you bring each inhale deeper into the belly, visualize the oxygen-rich air moving into your uterus, nourishing your infant.
Continue to inhale and imagine your ribcage expanding as well, and finally your chest. Pause at the top of the inhale just below the throat and then follow it with an equally slow exhale. Visualize the stale air leaving your body and your womb as your chest, ribcage, and then belly relax, in that order. As you reach the bottom of the exhale, pause for a moment and imagine that any negative thoughts and emotions are evaporating, releasing anything that no longer serves you and your infant. Repeat this cycle three to four times at your own pace, then return to a normal, comfortable pace of breathing and acknowledge any new physical sensations that may have arisen.
3-Part Breath Video
Video created by Magdalena Marzec 1:37 mins, November 2018
Head to Toe Body Scan and Relaxation
Move your way onto your back, using blankets or cushions beneath you as needed. Allow your toes to flop out and your arms to relax down at your sides. Let your eyelids become heavy and then softly close and focus on releasing your body onto the mat below. Feel the floor hold you up completely. Bring your attention to your face and focus on softening the little space between your eyebrows, then the remainder of your facial features. Relax through the back of your head and down the length of your spine.
As you mentally scan each individual body part one at a time, from head to toe, focus on softening it fully before continuing to the next one. Visualize your arms, hips, and belly relaxing. Feel your infant release completely in utero, and then move down your legs all the way to your feet, and finally the tips of your toes. Release any physical tension, tightness, tenderness, and pain as you go. Maintain this final position for a couple of minutes, enjoying your stillness, then wiggle your fingers and toes to bring awareness back into your body. Finally, check in with yourself for any new sensations that may have arisen.
Mindful Pregnancy Resources
“Mindful Birthing” is a resource for both pregnant women and those who are already parents, and the official website for the “Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Program”. This program guides parents-to-be in yoga and mindful meditation practice and includes information regarding the process of childbirth, strategies for pain management during labor, advice on comfortable birthing position, as well as tips on breastfeeding and parenting after birth. It prepares expectant mothers and their partners for the challenges of parenthood through the development of both physical and mental awareness. The classes are offered internationally and teach participants about the importance of physical relaxation, mental engagement, stress management, confidence building, and effective communication, among other skills.
“Mindfulness4U” is a website that focuses specifically on the promotion of mindfulness for various aspects of life, including pregnancy and childbirth. A significant section of the website is dedicated to answering any questions that expectant parents may have regarding strategies in developing a mindful approach to pregnancy, labour, and birth. The benefits of mindfulness are discussed as well as its use in coping with both physical and mental pain, and even parenting itself. Specific tips are provided to enhance awareness and coping, including the importance of sleep, breathing, and social support.
“Expectful” is a meditation app that offers 10- and 20-minute segments of guided audio specifically for aspiring, expectant, and new mothers. The app includes videos regarding the benefits of developing a regular meditation practice during pregnancy, as well as physical exercise ideas. There are numerous different meditations offered, dependent on whether women want to engage independently or with their partners, and how far along through their pregnancy they currently are. Information is provided on fertility treatments, trimester expectations, and ways to occasionally take a break from thinking about parenthood, if needed. The app helps women become more mindful and grounded in preparation for birth.
Spotify (Guided Meditation and Relaxing Music for Pregnant Women)
This section of the “Spotify” website provides pregnant women with numerous choices for relaxing meditation music. The songs feature gentle and soothing piano, flute, and harp options, and many of them are titled as though they are meant to relax the unborn infant in addition to the expectant mother. The music is a source of guided meditation, promoting mindfulness, relaxation, intimacy, and deep sleep, among other things. With a variety of both shorter and longer options to choose from, mothers-to- be are given an opportunity to enjoy physical and mental stress relief through sound.
This novel, written by a Buddhist monk, is offered as a hardcopy, e-book, or even audio book version. Andy Puddicombe, an experienced father himself, uses his words to guide expectant parents towards developing a deeper sense of mindfulness throughout their journey through fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth, and finally into parenthood. The creation of a peaceful environment for both parent and infant is promoted throughout this novel, as a strategy behind easing mental stress and navigating the challenges associated with parenthood. Readers are encouraged to engage in just 10 minutes of meditation each day to begin reaping the benefits of increased awareness.
Bonura, K.B. (2018). Just breathe: Mindfulness as pain management in pregnancy. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 33(1), 6-9. Retrieved from https://icea.org/about/icea-journal/
Bonura, K.B., Spadaro, N.I., & Thornton, R.W. (2016). Mindful fitness: Guidelines for prenatal practice. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 31(1), 14-17. Retrieved from https://icea.org/about/icea-journal/
Krusche, A., Dymond, M., Murphy S.E., & Crane, C. (2018). Mindfulness for pregnancy: A randomized controlled study of online mindfulness during pregnancy. Midwifery, 65(1), 51-57. Retrieved from https://www.midwiferyjournal.com/
Sheridan, C. (2016). The mindful nurse: Using the power of mindfulness and compassion to help you thrive in your work. Charleston, SC: Rivertime Press.
Mindfulness can be described as a heightened sense of awareness on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting “one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique” (Larkin, 2015, pgh. 4). It occurs when we shift our focus to the present, and calmly acknowledge it without judgement (Murphy, n.d.). Being pregnant can bring about all sorts of unfamiliar feelings and sensations. Some changes we may be aware of and others are quietly occurring in the background. It is important to be in tune with ourselves when these changes occur, so they can be addressed appropriately. Below, we will discuss the many benefits of practicing mindfulness while pregnant, including the physiological, mental, and emotional benefits. We will also look into why and how practicing mindfulness can support prenatal well-being. Lastly, we have included two mindfulness exercises for you to try at home with a helpful video to help guide you and we have provided five additional resources that you and your partner may find beneficial as you move forward through a healthy and mindful pregnancy.
Benefits of Mindfulness during Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be uncomfortable, and it is not uncommon for new Moms to fear the pain of labour and delivery (Bonura, 2018; Fraga, 2017; Murphy, n.d.). Luckily practicing mindfulness has many physiological, mental, and emotional benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to help with insomnia, assist with weight loss, and help reduce chronic pain (Fraga, 2017; Murphy, n.d.). In one recent study, pregnant women were randomly assigned to either a mindful childbirth workshop or a traditional childbirth class. Results showed that the participants that attended the mindful childbirth workshop felt better prepared for childbirth and were less likely to turn to opioid pain medication during labour (Fraga, 2017). Remaining present and responding to the labour experience by utilizing mindfulness techniques can help the woman endure her physical and emotional suffering (Fraga, 2017). Mindfulness has also been shown to help with postnatal recovery (Bonura, 2018).
Practicing mindfulness also has several mental and emotional benefits. It can help you feel more connected to your pregnancy experience, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and help you feel more positive (Dhillon, Sparkes, Duarte, 2017; Newman, 2016; Murphy, n.d.). Participants from the study mentioned above were interviewed again after giving birth and those that attended the mindful childbirth workshop had lower scores of prenatal and postpartum depression symptoms (Fraga, 2017; Dhillon et al., 2017; Mindful Staff, 2014).
How Being Mindful Can Support Prenatal Well-Being
Maternal stress is linked with poor outcomes in the baby, including “preterm birth, low birth weight, miscarriages, lower Apgar scores, smaller infant head circumference, and postpartum depression” (Frazer & Stathas, 2015, page 77). Research has found that in addition to providing benefits to women while they are pregnant, practicing mindfulness and lowered levels of anxiety have been found to have a positive effect on babies after they are born (van den Heuvel, Johannes, Henrichs, & Van den Bergh, 2015; Matvienko-Sikar, Lee, Murphy, & Murphy, 2016). Benefits include preventing premature birth and promoting healthy development thus leading to fewer developmental problems (Newman, 2016; Murphy, n.d.).
How to Have a Mindful Pregnancy
Are you ready to have a mindful pregnancy? It’s important to remember to not make this a competition and to start small (Murphy, n.d.). Practicing mindfulness can be achieved in whichever manner that works for you. What works for one person may not work for another and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as you are focused on the present moment and are accepting things as they are, mindfulness can be practiced through yoga, listening to music, through seated or walking meditation, or through an informal means, such as mindful eating (Fraga, 2017).
Below are some mindfulness tips and exercises to help you get started as you embark on your journey of having a mindful pregnancy. There is also a video to help guide you in practicing mindfulness at any time and in any place. You may want to utilize all of them, or just try one at a time. Ensure you are only practicing what you are comfortable with.
Become aware of your emotional and physical needs by staying present in the moment. It’s okay to say “no” to social events and other offers when there is too much on your plate (Douglas, n.d.; Jonkman, n.d.). Ensure that you are caring for your physical well-being by engaging in some form of exercise, such as yoga or walking.
Be kind to yourself! Practice self-compassion and do something each day for yourself, whether it be a bath or an indulgence (Douglas, n.d.).
Slow down and acknowledge that things may not always go according to plan (Mindful Staff, 2014). Take breaks and celebrate small achievements (Jonkman, n.d.).
Spend a few minutes each day in silent reflection to connect with your baby. Acknowledge and appreciate the miracle that is occurring in your body and express gratitude for all that you are able to do (O’ Leary, Dockray, & Hammond, 2016; Douglas, n.d.; Jonkman, n.d.).
Remain open-minded to learning and adapting (Douglas, n.d.). It is important to let go of any preconceptions and accept things as they come (Larkin, 2015). Don’t feel afraid to reach out to other women who have been on this journey before you or seek the help and advice of a healthcare professional if you are feeling anxious, stressed, or uneasy.
Lastly, let your mindful practices adapt with your baby and do what works for both of you (Mindful Staff, 2014). What may have worked during pregnancy may no longer be feasible. Part of practicing mindfulness is accepting what is and growing positively.
Try this Mindful Breathing Video
Video created by Noorshan Nanji 1:39 mins, November 2018
Mindful Pregnancy Resources
Mind the Bump
Mind the Bump is a free mindfulness meditation app that expectant mothers and couples can use as they prepare to start their new family. This free app provides mental and emotional support and offers education on both adult and child brain development. The app provides guidance from the first day of pregnancy until 24 months after giving birth. Additionally, the app was created by psychiatrists and psychologists who specialize in mindfulness and perinatal health. These healthcare professionals also have knowledge on how to deliver health related content online. This is a great resource as it can be accessed at anytime and anywhere.
This link provides information on where pregnant mothers can find prenatal classes to attend in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Yoga is an excellent exercise for pregnant mothers as it incorporates mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and strength-building exercise to prepare for labour and delivery. Additionally, the benefits of exercise are plentiful for both physiological and mental well-being.
This resource provides information for pregnant women about what to eat and what not to eat. During the crucial period of development, expectant mothers should be mindful of what they are consuming and ensure that they are receiving all the nutrients they need to achieve optimal health for themselves and their baby. Certain foods may need to be avoided during pregnancy and others may need to be consumed in greater quantities. This Food Guide will answer all questions and more, and directs you to additional resources if further inquires arise.
Breathing Space Counseling was founded in 2016 by two registered therapeutic counselors. It provides private counseling, couples counseling, a counselling support group for mothers, and professional development for counselors. The values of Breathing Space Counseling include inclusion, compassionate acceptance, realness, trust, freedom, accountability, and fun. This is the perfect space for moms and couples to unwind and momentarily let go of any responsibilities and just focus on themselves in a safe and supportive environment.
Dancing Star Birth is a handy one-stop link that directs you to several Vancouver-based resources. Here, you can find information to guide you through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Some of the resources this site has gathered directs you to prenatal yoga classes, midwives, doulas, acupuncture, chiropractors, where to find postpartum support, information on art therapy, information on natural health care services, and support for new fathers. Whatever you are looking for, Dancing Star Birth is sure to have it!
Matvienko-Sikar, K., Lee, L., Murphy, G., & Murphy, L. (2016). The effects of mindfulness interventions on prenatal well-being: A systematic review. Psychology & Health, 31(12), 1415–1434. https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2016.1220557
O’ Leary, K., Dockray, S., & Hammond, S. (2016). Positive prenatal well-being: conceptualizing and measuring mindfulness and gratitude in pregnancy. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 19(4), 665–673. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-016-0620-x
van den Heuvel, M. I., Johannes, M. A., Henrichs, J., & Van den Bergh, B. R. H. (2015). Maternal mindfulness during pregnancy and infant socio-emotional development and temperament: the mediating role of maternal anxiety. Early Human Development, 91(2), 103–108. https://doi-org.ezproxy.kpu.ca:2443/10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2014.12.003
The process of childbirth is not for the faint-hearted. Whether women decide to use pharmaceutical or non-pharmaceutical pain remedies, vaginally delivering a baby can be a long strenuous journey. Luckily, there are many helpful tools to prepare for childbirth, one of them being mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the act of deliberate and open-hearted attention to the present moment that is unfolding, both in the external and internal world (Hughes, Williams, Bardacke, Duncan, Dimidjian & Goodman, 2009). It is cultivated through training of the mind and body using guided meditation and thoughtfulness. With practice, individuals can learn to cultivate moment-by-moment, non-judgmental awareness of their thoughts, feelings and body sensations as they arise. The practice of mindful birthing was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979 for the use of helping hospital patients to cope with pain (Szalinkski, 2018). It started as an adaption of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to alleviate stress, depression, anxiety and pain. There are three components of pain: sensory, cognitive, and emotional (Figure 1). These components magnify each other, so increasing negative thoughts and anxious feelings increases pain sensation and the painful experience (Sheridan, 2016).
Fear and anxiety have been shown to magnify pain during labour and practicing mindfulness in preparation for childbirth can help decrease anxiety and empower a woman to feel more in control of her body during this very intense experience (Duncan, Cohn, Chao, Cook, Riccobono & Bardacke, 2017). Mindfulness is one’s ability to be completely present in the current moment and is the antithesis of being scatterbrained or on autopilot (Sheridan, 2016).
Strategy 1 – Breathing
Breathing strategies are widely recommended for a variety of relaxation, meditation and mindfulness practices. Some areas of focus are listed below and will aid in mindful breathing and can serve to help relax the woman in labour and provide a distraction from pain and the negative emotional and cognitive processes associated with it. Typically, women will determine for themselves what speed, depth and rate of breathing works best for them in labour; although care should be taken to stay within a range of ½ to 2x the normal rate of breathing so that adequate oxygen is being taken in (Amis & Green, 2014).
Click to view larger version of these instructions
Strategy 2 – Imagery and Visualization
Visualization allows a labouring woman to focus during labour, which can minimize fear and anxiety (Beaumont Hospital, 2018). Purposely directing thoughts to relieve stress can provide a sense of relief and relaxation (Perry, Hockenberry, Lowdermilk, Wilson, Keenan-Lindsay, & Sams, 2017). A variety of strategies can be employed where the woman thinks of relaxing imagery, or she can become mindfully aware of what her body is doing.
Some examples are:
● Visualizing rhythmic ocean waves
● Imagine being surrounded by your favorite colour. Think about breathing in a relaxing colour and having it extend to every part of your body, and then exhaling a colour associated with tension
● Visualize the pedals of a flower opening
● Try to picture your cervix ripening and opening
● Imagine your baby’s position change as it moves through the pelvis
● Visualize the baby coming down the birth canal. This has been known to enhance pushing efforts (Perry et al., 2017)
Strategy 3 – Observe your Pain
In order to manage the different aspects of the pain experience, one can use mindfulness to be aware of the emotional, cognitive and sensory component. This includes acknowledging the sensory perception can decrease the negative emotions like fear and anxiety that are often associated with pain (Sheridan, 2016).
Strategy 4 – Biofeedback
In order for biofeedback to be effective, the woman is aware of her body and its response to pain and uses practiced techniques for relaxation. It uses mental processes of thinking and focusing to control body responses and functions to pain (Perry et al., 2017). For example, if the woman responds to contraction pain by tightening muscles, frowning, moaning and holding breath, her partner uses touch and verbal feedback to promote relaxation.
Strategy 5 – Yoga
The practice of yoga has been associated with pain relief and a reduced length of labour (Perry et al., 2017). Practicing yoga poses during labour can also help position the fetus into the correct position for delivery. Practicing yoga in the antenatal period has prepared women to cope better with the overwhelming sensations of labour for many years. Yoga brings awareness to the mind, body and spirit and can serve as a relaxation practice to prepare the body and mind for childbirth and beyond (Weller, 1981).
View Our Video: Mindfulness in Childbirth Exercise- A Guided Meditation During Labour
Video created by Jenny Anderson and Michelle Harbott 2 mins, November 2018 in Adobe Spark Video
Mindful Childbirth Resources
Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond
This is a website dedicated to the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Program (MBCP), which was organized by Nancy Bardacke, a certified midwife, author and mindfulness teacher. Because it is promoting classes, there is some bias, however, there are videos, and free resources on the website that provide education and strategies for someone who is curious about what mindfulness in childbirth looks like. Classes are offered regularly and are scheduled in 9-week blocks, available across the United States, and internationally. The section of the website with the richest information is the Resources and Research section where there is a comprehensive list of links to academic articles, popular articles that can be accessed for free; additionally, there are links to books that can be purchased, and to affiliated organizations.
Sometimes academic sources are not very easy to read or navigate, but that is not the case with this university website. The section on Mindfulness Resources, is easy to get to and even easier to follow. There are many guided meditations and other resources that are simple to download and share and would be a useful tool for a labouring mother to have on her smartphone or other device. Clear, descriptive titles make the selection straightforward and the accessibility is a testament to the intentions of this institution which are “to further the practice and integration of mindfulness into all aspects of society,” as stated on their website.
Calming and serene, this website instantly relaxes the reader. It provides simple-to-understand information on the effects of relaxation on mother and baby and offers step-by-step written instructions for guided meditation that can help reduce anxiety before labour. There are links to courses and events, and even products like massage oils and creams that can be purchased to assist in labour. The affiliation with Deepak Chopra lends credence to this resource as he is a prominent figure in mediation, mindfulness and alternative medicine.
This website is affiliated with MBCP and provides links to sign up for the classes, but the homepage also serves as an introduction to mindfulness and its application to childbirth. Immediately upon looking at this resource there are a multitude of links to articles, awards, blogs, and online magazines. Not only does it provide a plethora of media options for the wide variety of parents, but it speaks to the credentials and reliability of the organization and the content. There is a tab for student resources, that is only accessible with an account, so there is likely supplementary information to the courses available online.
The tone of this website is more casual, which makes it accessible to the majority of the population. It discusses mindful childbirth, but also provides a lot of basic information on mindfulness in general. The site is well organized, with easy-to-navigate links and tabs. This resource would be an excellent starting place for someone who does not know much about mindfulness, but also has a lot of information that is helpful for those who are more practiced.
This website offers an online course for couples to prepare for childbirth. There are many other resources within the website to ask questions and get personalized help. The online course covers topics of mindfulness such as pregnancy yoga poses, breathing to relax and control the mind, finding zen during pregnancy, and activating the gate-control system.
The website has several guided meditations to try when preparing for childbirth. It also explains the benefits of meditation and different types of meditation that is easy to understand. Main points are bolded for emphasis in order to guide readers into different types of meditation such as deep breathing and visualization. These meditations have been known to lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety as they decrease stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline.
This website helps readers to learn to meditate and live mindfully. They provide hundreds of themed sessions such as stress, sleep, focus or anxiety. On their app, there are “bite-sized” meditations for busy schedules, and even guided meditations specially for childbirth. On a blog post, a woman claims that “it is of paramount importance to create space for mindfulness as part of the birth preparation and to cultivate mindful relationships with your partner, your family, and most importantly, yourself. Mindfulness may not give you the birth experience you want, but it helps you fall in love with the birth experience you get”. Headspace is a warm and friendly place to learn and practice the act of meditation online, in addition to a convenient app.
This is an excellent online resource for evidence-based information about maternity care practices in the United States and resources about pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. It offers tools to plan your childbirth, starting off with choosing your healthcare provider and location of birth. They provide detailed information from high-quality research on a few common interventions, like cesarean birth (C-section) and labor induction, and on other important childbirth topics, including labour support, coping with labour pain and preventing pelvic floor problems. In addition, they offer tips for making decisions and plans and getting the care that is right for the family.
This online magazine contains articles that outline meditation-based approaches to childbirth and parenting that “does not deny pain but helps acknowledge and manage it”. It opens the dialogue regarding mindful meditations, and the benefits of the practice during pregnancy and childbirth. It shares personal stories of mindful techniques that worked for mothers during the labour process and beyond birth.
Duncan, L. G., Cohn, M. A., Chao, M. T., Cook, J. G., Riccobono, J., & Bardacke, N. (2017). Benefits of preparing for childbirth with mindfulness training: a randomized controlled trial with active comparison. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 17, 1–11.
Dunn, C., Hanieh, E., Roberts, R., & Powrie, R. (2012). Mindful pregnancy and childbirth: effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on women’s psychological distress and well-being in the perinatal period. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 15(2), 139–143.
Hughes A., Williams M., Bardacke N., Duncan L. G., Dimidjian S., & Goodman S. H. (2009). Mindfulness approaches to childbirth and parenting. British Journal of Midwifery, 17(10), 630–635.
Perry, S., Hockenberry, M., Lowdermilk, D., Wilson, D., Keenan-Lindsay, L., & Sams, C. A. (2017). Maternal Child Nursing in Canada. 2nd edition. Toronto: Elsevier (Mosby).
Sheridan, C. (2016). The Mindful Nurse: Using the Power of Mindfulness and Compassion to Help You Thrive in Your Work. Charleston, SC: Rivertime Press.
Practicing Mindfulness During the Early Months of Parenthood: A guide for parents of children from Birth-18 months
Babies go through drastic changes from the time they are born to 18 months of age and it is no surprise they rely heavily on their parents for guidance, comfort, care, security, nutrition, and shelter. The unique transition to parenthood also comes with significant changes as parents go through the ups and downs during the early months, all while trying to maintain relationships and self-identity. Although the experience of parenthood is rewarding and brings joy to many parents, there are also a multitude of challenges that parents face during these early months, which can cause feelings of stress. Therefore, it is important that parents practice self-care and mindfulness to maintain their own health and well-being.
The Transformative Process of the Child and Parent
The time from your baby’s birth to 18 months of age goes by quickly. In this short span, your child will grow significantly in size, develop their own personality, grow teeth, begin to sit up on their own, walk, begin to play with toys, and even begin to talk (Perry, Hockenberry, Lowdermilk, & Wilson, 2013). Growth spurts are particularly challenging as they are often met with sleepless nights and above all, feelings of frustration or helplessness by many parents. Some parents may consider themselves lucky as their child may learn to eventually sleep throughout the night as he or she grows, while other parents face difficulties keeping their child asleep at night. All these changes that occur during the first 18 months of life, along with increased responsibility can also change the dynamic of the relationship between many parents. What is important to know during this time is that every child is different and the most important thing you can do as a parent is practice self-care so you can be the best parent you can be.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness refers to the ability to pay attention to one’s internal and external thoughts and experiences that currently exist in the present, which allow one to become more aware of their mental state (Edenfield & Saeed, 2012). Mindfulness also allows one to be aware of his or her surroundings, emotions, and thoughts, and how these affect his or her body; it is the process of choosing one thing and paying close attention to it (Healthwise Staff, 2017). There are many ways parents can incorporate self-care into their daily routine. One of the most effective ways of doing so is through practicing simple mindfulness. Let’s face it, parents don’t have a lot of time, but that is okay, because setting aside 10-15 minutes a day is all you need to practice mindfulness. There are many different types of mindfulness exercises that are effective for parents of 0-18-month-old children.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
During the first 18 months of life, children require a significant amount of care and attention and it is easy to lose touch with one’s own body and emotions in the process of caring for someone else. Mindfulness exercises can help parents identify their external and internal stressors and assist them to overcome and resolve these stressors (Fargo, 2018). Mindful exercises have also been shown to help reduce anxiety and increase concentration. Although anytime is an appropriate time to practice mindfulness exercises, they are best practiced when parents are in a relaxed state so that they are effective when unexpected or stressful situations arise.
Tips for Getting Started: Simple Mindfulness Techniques
The first mindfulness technique for parents to consider, especially as a parent of a baby or toddler, is to pay attention to how you sound and appear to your child when providing care (Fargo, 2018). Imagine how you would want your child to perceive you, especially during stressful times, for example, when the child is not sleeping well, crying more often than not, or not eating well. Another way parents can practice mindfulness with their child, is by taking the child’s point of view or perception to help consider why the child may be crying or not feeding well which will increase awareness of not only their own feelings, but also the child’s.
Another helpful way parents can practice self-care is to involve their full body into mindfulness exercises which can help overcome emotional and physical stress. For example, focus on your entire body, as you do a full body scan, recognize and touch the parts of your body that feel tense (Healthwise Staff, 2017). As you touch your body, focus on relieving the tension by consciously relaxing your muscles and breathing in and out slowly. After focusing on your body parts, move onto your brain and focus on all of the thoughts that are running through your brain. Pay attention to the content of your thoughts, without being judgmental, and take note of the types of thoughts you have (Healthwise Staff, 2017). It is okay for your mind to dwell on certain things, become distracted, or begin to think about other things that you need to do for the day while performing different exercises, as this is part of practicing mindfulness. When it comes to mindfulness, practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it certainly goes a long way to help stay in the present and avoid becoming distracted by other stressors
Another practical mindfulness technique that can easily be incorporated into any parent’s routine, is done by using nature and the senses such as taste, smell, touch, and vision to encourage and practice mindfulness. For example, going for a walk, taking deep breaths, being mindful of the smell outside, feeling the temperature, looking at the colour of the trees and flowers, and the colour of the sky can help distract one from having constant worrying or stressful thoughts (Healthwise Staff, 2017). For those days where leaving the house seems like an impossible task, using mindfulness techniques at home can be just as helpful. For example, when eating a meal, pay attention to the colour and smell of the food, notice the way the meal looks, eat slowly and be mindful, and recognize the different types of flavors that you can taste. When feeding or resting while the baby takes a nap, take time to sit on a comfortable chair, look outside the window, pay attention to the sounds around you, and focus on deep breathing. Lastly, at the end of each day, look back and reflect on positive things that occurred in that day. For example, focus on positive interactions that you had with your child and partner, even if it was a challenging day (Marlowe, 2013). Encouraging your mind to focus on more positive memories and practice reflecting on experiences that brought joy helps you to reconnect and remember these pleasant experiences, rather than having negative memories and therefore, negative emotions.
Practicing mindfulness exercises acts as a self-help treatment and helps one recognize, reflect, and resolve stressful situations. It is also important to realize that it is not always easy to be mindful due to multiple stressors, however, it is important to recognize stress levels and use self-help techniques, such as mindfulness exercises, to promote better mental health, and provide better care for not only yourself but also your child (Fargo, 2018).
Try Our 2 Minute Mindfulness Practice Video
Video created by Jasmin Mundi and Emily Shergill 2 mins, November 2018 in Adobe Spark Video
Mindful New Parent Resources
Mindful Families is a blog created by Sara Marlowe, a mother, author and clinical social worker. Mindful Families is a valuable resource that provides thoughtful tips on the topic of mindful parenting and raising mindful children. This website contains many articles, as well as, techniques on how parents can incorporate mindfulness into everyday life in a way that enriches the well-being of the whole family unit. In addition to the online resources offered through mindfulfamilies.ca, Sara Marlowe also offers personal counselling services and mindfulness workshops that the whole family can enjoy.
Mindful is an online community based website that offers a great starting place for parents who wish to learn more about the basics of mindfulness. This website is designed for any person who is interested in learning about the basic principles of mindfulness and offers strong evidence-based research on the benefits of mindfulness practice. This easy-to-use website also provides its users with a variety of free meditation and mindfulness practices that can be easily integrated into daily life. What makes Mindful truly unique, it that the website specifically relates mindfulness to a variety of health topics, making it easy to understand how mindfulness can affect the body, mind and spirit.
Mindful Exercises is a perfect website for parents to use when they may not be able to get out of the house during those earlier months of parenting. This practical website offers free guided meditations through video and audio resources that are short enough to incorporate into almost any part of the day. For those who are in need of some extra mindfulness inspiration, this website offers free mindfulness and meditation quotes which can help parents gain perspective and carry a new sense of optimism during the most stressful of times.
HealthLink BC is a free resource that provides evidence-based health and wellness information and is created by the Provincial Government of British Columbia that touches on a variety of topics from caring for children to self-care. This resource is an all-around health toolkit that any parent will be sure to benefit from in a variety of ways for years to come. For those parents who are in need of extra help or advice, this website offers a phone number (8-1-1) that parents can call for more in depth advice from health care professionals on a variety of health topics.
The Mindfulness Project is an initiative started by Clinical Psychologist and mindfulness teacher, Peter Morgan after recognizing the difficulty in finding free mindfulness resources. The Mindfulness Project is a library of helpful mindfulness tools that users can access from all over the world. Not only does the Mindfulness Project offer free guided mindfulness meditation downloads, it also directs its users to a variety of user-friendly apps that could certainly be incorporated into a daily routine.
Insight Timer is a free meditation app that is available in a variety of languages that can be downloaded onto any iPhone or Android. This app brings together over five million mediators worldwide into one online community. There are also over 2500 meditation instructors publishing tools to helps its users become calm, mindful, compassionate people through meditation and mindfulness practices. In addition to the guided meditations provided, there are also published audio discussions that cover topics such as self-compassion and stress.
Baby Center is a website specifically designed with parents of infants and toddlers in mind. Baby Center touches on a variety of parenting topics applicable to parents of children 0-18 months, such as breastfeeding, sleep, growth and development, as well as, helpful strategies for parents on how to practice self-care during the early stages of parenthood. Many articles published on Baby Center are evidence-based and written by Canadian physicians and other professionals. Baby Center also provides a message board for parents to communicate and provide support to one another.
Healthy Families BC is an initiative started by the provincial government of British Columbia to promote the health and well-being of BC families throughout their lifespan. The overall aim of the Healthy Families initiative is to help British Columbians take initiative over their own health and well-being by offering a variety of health promoting resources. Part of the Healthy Families BC initiative is to promote self-care of new parents. There are a variety of resources on the Healthy Family BC website to help parents as they go through the motions of parenthood, including ways of practicing self-care.
Moments a Day is a blog designed to empower families to make steps towards personal growth and development. According to the site, personal growth is something that should be continued throughout one’s life course, and helps people become better parents. Moments a Day offers a variety of articles such as how to use mindfulness to manage motherhood, how to connect with your child, and such, as a way to help parents in their quest for personal growth within the context of family.
This video provides parents with a short relaxation meditation exercise that is easy to do at home. The author of the video (Candace) is also an international yoga instructor and renowned blogger who offers a variety of other free meditation videos that are short enough to keep even the busiest parent engaged.
Parenting is a full-time job, and a new parent becomes consumed by the responsibilities created by constant feeding, diaper changes, bonding, and cuddling (on top of cooking, cleaning and maintaining relationships). Mothers often grieve the loss of their former selves as they dive further into motherhood (Fraga, 2014). Parenting is “simply putting one foot in front of the other and taking one step at a time” (Sears, 2018). Sometimes it is hard enough to just finish the tasks of the day without really being engaged in what you are doing. Parents are sleep deprived, mentally drained, and can feel irritable or emotional many times a day. Mindfulness is a way to stay grounded while everything else around a new mother and baby are transforming and changing (Fraga, 2018). Pregnancy and the postpartum period are optimal times to start practicing mindfulness (Sears, 2018). Mindfulness is paying attention to the here and now without distraction, worrying or overthinking (Smith, 2018). Mindfulness refers to paying attention on purpose to the present while analysing your senses (Fraga, 2014). Going through the motions just to finish the tasks is like living “with your mouth closed, nose plugged up, ears covered, and eyes constantly on the clock.” (Smith, 2018). Mindfulness helps a person tune into their senses and get the most out of the situation. Mindfulness is good for our mental health and relationships and allows us to enjoy life rather than just exist through it.
You can choose to be mindful at any time, it just takes practice to give our full attention in the moment or pull our attention back when our mind wanders. (Sears, 2018). Breastfeeding is an excellent time for a mother to not only bond with her baby but practice mindful thinking. The mother can focus on her breathing as she can feel the breathing and suckling of the baby (Winston, 2010). Sears (2018) suggests being mindful while breastfeeding without distracting yourself with technology or wandering thoughts. The mother should try and clear her mind and focus on her senses: how her nipple feels as the baby feeds, the sounds of suckling, the smell of breast milk and the sight of the baby happily feeding. It is easy for the mind to wander or think of the million tasks that the mother needs to complete by the end of the day. Winston (2010) states that the occasional pinching from the baby brings her back to reality when she spaces out. It takes no extra time to be mindful just extra effort (Smith, 2018). It may not happen right away but can always be practiced. When the mind wanders, bring it back to the present and engage in your present activity. This will also cause a deeper connection between the mother and baby as the mother is fully engaged with the baby.
Babies are constantly exploring everything around them using all their senses instinctively, as they begin to form impressions about everything (Babyganics, 2016). This is a very crucial time for infants, so getting into good routines can make all the difference later (Smith, 2018). Babyganics (2016) suggests that to support their “innate sense of curiosity” parents can practice mindfulness with their babies, while loving and supporting them along the way. Mindfulness allows the baby to observe and witness his/her thoughts (Neiman, 2015). Children can learn about sensations, and how information comes to us through the body and mind through breathing and movement (Neiman, 2015). It is important to supply young people with ways to stay present in their bodies in the moment (Neiman, 2015). Being present and mindful comes naturally to babies as they are exposed to new places, items, and sensations every day. Every experience is shaping the baby’s life, and stimulating multiple senses enhances the baby’s learning (Smith, 2018). The baby’s brain is rapidly developing in the early stages of his/her life; by age three 85% of the baby’s brain is developed (Smith, 2018). Smith (2018) suggests using a baby’s bath time to practice mindfulness as it is a “multi-sensory experience”. In the bath, the baby learns about his/her environment, the people around them and about their senses, like touch or massage (Smith, 2018). Babies splash around and tune into their senses without thinking about it. The parents can make the bath fun by using bubbles and providing toys for the baby to touch and move around (Babyganics, 2016). At the same time, the parents can again be mindful and engaged in the moment. The parents can ask themselves: What do I see? What do I feel? What do I smell? What do I hear? What do I taste? (Smith, 2018). The parent will hear the baby laughing or cooing, see the baby in the tub having fun, smell baby shampoo and bubbles, and likely feel happy to see the baby enjoying him/herself.
Another time a parent can practice mindfulness for themselves and their infant is when walking around outside. Before leaving the house, the parent can introduce the baby to the world and outside environment by opening the curtains and pointing to the sun, rain, snow or wind and invite the baby to touch the window panes (Babyganics, 2016). Then the baby can feel the temperature while outside. While pushing the baby in the stroller, the mother can leave all her worries or responsibilities behind and focus on the fresh air, weather, feeling of the sun on her skin or cold on her lips, how her body feels while walking etc. When the baby is sleeping/quiet, the mother can tap into her consciousness and be aware of how her body feels and everything around her (Winston, 2010). She can then allow her baby to get out and explore when it is safe. The baby will be introduced to new places, which will be exciting for him/her (Babyganics, 2016). The mother will be present and engaged as she sees her baby’s eyes light up by being stimulated. Outdoor play protects the baby from stress and anxiety and strengthens their immune systems. So even if it is chilly out, bundle your baby up nice and warm, and allow him/her to run around and explore, and get to know the beautiful world that exists.
Moment by Moment Mindfulness
A place that promotes a lot of mindful thinking is the kitchen. It is normal for parents to be afraid of their child in the kitchen due to the many dangers, or not want the baby making a mess. However, when the baby is involved in food preparation and exposed to many flavors and textures, they not only will grow up to be healthier eaters but also not as picky (Babyganics, 2016). Exposing the child early on can allow him and her to make sense out of what is around them. For example, allowing the baby to lick the skin of an avocado will introduce the baby to its texture (Babyganics, 2016). The parent can give the baby different safe things to touch, smell, taste and see. There are many items and foods the baby may have not been exposed to yet, so it would be exposing him/her while again stimulating multiple senses. The parent can also be mindful when changing the baby’s diapers. Of course, the smell and sight may be overpowering, but this allows the parent to recognize if they are truly present or disengaged from the situation (Winston, 2010). Every baby deserves to have their parent’s full attention. And while it is not always intentional, the mind wanders and prevents us from fully experiencing moments in life. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store can be a perfect place to practice mindfulness. While it is mundane for the parent, it is still new and exciting for the baby. Take your time and allow the baby to look around and take things in, and touch and feel objects along the way (Babyganics, 2016).
Bonding is the close emotional tie that develops between parents and their little ones (Sears, 2018). It is important for the mother to be mindful of how she is feeling, which ever emotion that may be (Sears, 2018). If the thoughts are negative; feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, Sears (2018) suggest taking a deep breath and replacing them with positive, loving thoughts. Communication and learning are influenced by the constant loving and caring words and touch from the parents (Smith, 2018). Physical touch and massage create the baby’s first emotional bonds (Smith, 2018). Infants who experience routine touch and massage (compared to those who didn’t) were 50% more likely to make eye contact and three times more likely to have a positive expression (Smith, 2018). Therefore, holding the baby closely, caressing its back, being mindful and positive not only creates an emotional bond with the baby, but positively influences the baby’s thoughts, sensations and demeanor. Sears (2018) offers some positive words, that can be said out loud as a mantra. The mother can repeat these four lines to the baby while breastfeeding, changing a diaper, in the bath, at naptime, on a walk or basically anywhere and everywhere:
“May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you feel loved.”
View Our Mindfulness Video
Video created by April Fanstone and Porsche Campbell 1 min, November 2018 in Visme
Mindful Parent Resources
BC Association of Family Resource Programs
This non-profit organization supports development of healthy diverse families who have children between the ages of prenatal to six years old. The goal of FRP-BC is to provide families with the support necessary to help raise healthy children from prenatal to age six. This resource allows parents and their toddler to attend programs within the community at specific family drop-in centers.
A registered non-profit, charitable organization with the goal of supporting professionals, the community and family strengthening. BCCF has been around for over 40 years developing and delivering resources that support families by education and training professionals provide wide. BCCF’s mission is to support family services and families by providing knowledge within a community setting
This free drop-in program available to parents and caregivers with children ages 0 -5 puts an emphasis of learning through a variety of ways such as, language, positive social interaction and play. The learning environment for toddlers is rich, interactive and of high quality for optimal learning and development. The program is targeted at early learning development for children 0 -5, which is shared with the parents. Parents are encouraged to be involved during activities, assist with story telling, playing games and providing children with healthy snacks. StrongStart Centres are offered in many neighbourhoods and local Elementary schools – there are nineteen in total that operate at different times each day in the Lower Mainland of BC.
Child Care Resource & Referral provides families with community referrals, reputable resources and support for the development of children at various stages of life. CCRR programs range with regards to service and provide information and support on topics such as, child care information & referrals, workshops and training for children, drop-in programs for family along with information about child care benefits. CCRR works with the Ministry of Children and Family Development to further the strength of the family, child development and the transition to parenthood
The main goal of Zero to Three is to help ensure all babies and toddlers are provided with a strong start in life. The vision is for society to be knowledgeable and supportive of all infants and toddlers in reaching full growth and development potential. Zero to Three highlights the first three years of life and marks an infant and toddler’s foundation for health and well-being. Therefore, supportive measures to assist those caring for these infants and toddlers, such as parents or guardians is necessary to maximize the long-term impacts for a bright healthy future. This organization works with many centers, projects and initiative to support optimal growth and development. Working with family and community connections is a critical component to optimize infants and toddlers well-being and development
This website provides information on how often to breastfeed, the length of time to spend breastfeeding and how to know if it’s effective. It provides information on what to expect diaper-wise and gives practical suggestions such as when to burp the baby. By providing videos, the site not only explains this information, but shows it which can be easier to learn, especially for visual learners
This website is all about bonding with your child. Not only does if explain seven wonderful ways a mother can bond wit her child, but also explains how the father can bond with the child. Bonding is the close emotional tie that develops between parents and the baby at birth and continues to develop during the neonatal period and infancy. A father’s nurturing response may be less automatic and slower than a mother’s, but he can form a strong bond attachment. Breastfeeding, cuddling, using skin-to-skin contact and direct eye contact and continuously talking to the infant are a few ways the mother can begin to bond with the baby
This website addresses the importance of “early childhood mental health” from ages zero to five. Listed are risk factors for children to develop mental health challenges, as well as parent education and how to respond to the cues. Developing a good attachment and bond is crucial in making the child feel secure and loved and allow them to form trusting relationships.
This website covers common congenital disorders including cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, cleft lip, Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome. It addresses how these disorders can be tested for around ten to fifteen weeks after conception by using amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Things a mother can do to prevent congenital disorders include avoiding alcohol, smoking and drugs, controlling diabetes, avoiding exposure to environmental chemical, being vaccinated and ingesting folic acid in her healthy diet
Information on Diseases & Conditions for Parents with Infants & Toddler (Ages 0-3)
This website covers many common diseases and conditions for this age range. Each condition has a link to a new page with signs and symptoms, complications, how the disease is transmitted, how to prevent it and treat it, including a kid-friendly illustrated fact sheet. This can be very helpful for parents as they can refer to this website if they suspect something is happening with their child and can compare the side effects or presentation with the listed information given.
Mindfulness has been gaining traction as a way of improving individual well-being, from health to happiness and resilience (Suttie, 2016). Mindfulness can be defined as the awareness that emerges through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding experience moment by moment (Duncan, Coatsworth & Greenberg, 2009). Parenting can be a very challenging task and one that takes a lot of commitment and responsibility. Being mindful as a parent is of utmost importance and can help reduce the stressors that accompany parenting (Meppelink, Bruin, Wanders-Mulder, Vennik, & Bögels, 2016). When parents become stressed that stress becomes contagious; children know when their parents are tense and overwhelmed (Garey, 2018). Data shows that the greatest source of childhood and adolescent stress is not school work, extracurricular activities, or peer pressure, but parental stress. That being said, being a good parent also means learning to manage your own stress and mindfulness activities are a great way to facilitate this.
Mindful parenting has been described as a fundamental parenting skill or practice and it has been proposed that fostering everyday mindfulness in the context of parenting and parent training is one avenue for improving the effectiveness of parenting interventions (Duncan et al., 2009). Understanding your preschooler’s development and filling your toolbox with positive parenting skills will go a long way in resolving conflicts with your young child. As children grow into early childhood, their world will begin to open up as they become more independent and begin to focus more on adults both in and outside of the family (Perry, Hockenberry, Lowdermilk, & Wilson, 2017).
Mindful Parenting Experience
Incorporating mindful awareness into parenting interactions can allow parents to stop and fundamentally shift their awareness in order to view their present-moment parenting experience as well as attend to their child’s needs, while exercising self-regulation and wise choice in their actions (Duncan et al., 2009). It can also help that parents know that many different factors such as temperament, brain development, physical and intellectual abilities, and skill acquisition underlie much of a child’s behavior in these early years. Even the most delightful child can misbehave, and this can be frustrating for parents to deal with. Duncan et al.’s (2009) model of mindful parenting suggests that parents who can remain aware and accepting of their child’s needs through using mindfulness practices can create a family context that allows for more enduring satisfaction and enjoyment in the parent–child relationship.
When parents bring the practices of mindful parenting to parent–child interactions, they can cultivate an enhanced capacity for parenting calmly, with greater consistency, and in greater accordance with their goals and values, while engendering a warm and nurturing affective tenor in the parent–child relationship (Duncan et al., 2009). Challenging moments with young children can cause parents to snap or lose their temper and this is a reminder of how mindfulness can be such a valuable tool in parenting. When it comes to parenting mindfully, a lot of the work is about learning to make peace with our imperfections. Instead of beating yourself up, if you are able to make peace with your imperfections and begin to regulate your emotional state, you can be calmer and more present for your kids and cultivate some self-compassion (Garey, 2018).
It is easy to allow worry to take you away from the present. Duncan et al. (2009) suggest parents bring a present-moment awareness to their parenting that includes listening with full attention, bringing emotional awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance to their parenting interactions, and practicing self-regulation and compassion in their parenting relationships. Not imagining the worst helps parents to be more effective at dealing with today. Lechner (2018) describes worrying as being similar to paying interest on a loan that you haven’t been approved for.
Mindfulness and the Breath
One technique to help stay grounded in the present moment is to practice deep breathing (Lechner, 2018). Three rounds of slow inhalation and exhalation can calm the fight or flight response and will help you to feel in control of your emotions rather than letting your emotions and worry control you (Lechner, 2018). There’s science to show that taking a deep breath and staying calm when your children are pushing you to the edge actually causes positive changes in the brain (Garey, 2018). Research shows when you are able to recognize chaos in a non-anxious or fearful way, but just name it, people can actually turn the volume down on the amygdala, which is the fear circuit of the brain, and bring more activity to the prefrontal cortex, so we can be more aware of what’s happening right now in the present (Garey, 2018).
Start the Day Off Mindfully
A mindful family works together as a team and as a parent, you are not controlling the outcome, but you are guiding your team (Lechner, 2018). Another helpful resource is to make a concerted effort to slow things down. By slowing things down, stepping back and observing your own reactions, you are given a new perspective to effectively restructure your family’s routine, think of your busy morning routine rushing to get ready before school (Garey, 2018). Mindful mornings may be less efficient, but they’re more pleasurable as you will start with a happy mood instead of all this stress and rushing. Garey (2018) suggests efforts like waking up earlier and allowing your child to pick out their own clothes if this is what they insist. If you’re five minutes late to preschool it doesn’t change anything. What changes things is the frustration and stress that builds up causing everything to unravel (Garey, 2018).
Research by Suttie (2016) showed that parents who reported more mindful parenting engaged in more positive and less negative parenting behavior, which was then linked to more positive behavior in their kids—meaning less anxiety, depression, and acting out. It seems there is no one right way to parent mindfully but happily, there are many right ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as practicing paying full attention to your kids, with openness and compassion, and maybe that’s enough at any moment (Garey, 2018).
Mindful Breathing for Parents Video
Video created by Megan Durrant and Sarah Hillsdon 2 mina, November 2018 in ShowMe
Mindful Parent Resources
Mindfulness Exercises is a website that has access to more than 1500 mindfulness activities and exercises that are free. The website strives to share the best evidence based mindfulness exercises with people all around the world. The website is complete with worksheets, videos, ebooks, mindfulness coaching and training as well as a 100-day mindfulness challenge.
The Child Mind Institute aims to help children and their families who are struggling with mental health and learning disorders and provides information that will empower families and communities to get help in the areas of mental health and learning disorders. One aspect of the website includes information on mindfulness techniques for parents that can take stress and anxiety out of raising kids. This website also includes information for families and educators along with their research in this area.
This TED talk by Mary Ann Christie Burnside, a developmental psychologist is on the topic of Mindfulness and Parenting. The speaker is a developmental psychologist who specializes in relational health and mindfulness education. She also offers programs such as group sessions in schools, workplaces and communities such as mindfulness retreats for adults and mindfulness training.
Vancouver Coastal Health has a parenting resources page which includes information such as sleep, play, siblings and even getting ready for school. This page shows how to build healthy relationships with your preschooler – specifically how to foster strong and loving relationships and how to approach challenging behaviors. Information such as immunizations, allergies, speech and language and staying healthy are also included on this website.
The Child Development Institute provides information to parents related to child development, psychology, health, parenting and family activities. This website connects parents with professional experts and other useful websites. The goal of the Institute is to promote parent-child relationships by encouraging families to spend time together which in turn fosters and promotes communication including a page on mindful parenting.
Healthy Families BC Aims to improve the health and wellbeing of British Columbians. Healthy families BC focuses on four main areas including healthy eating, healthy lifestyles, resources for parents and fostering healthy communication. There is a specific area dedicated to preschool aged children where they have many articles and information surrounding healthy eating, physical activity, safety, development and parenting.
The Mindful Parent is an organization that strives to share information with parents and caregivers on how to mindfully attend to children. They strive to demonstrate to parents and caregivers how to be physically present with their children as well how to enhance their connection with children in hopes to create better and happier parents. This website also is a platform for parents to share dialogue surrounding mindfulness and parenting experiences.
This resource can be found on YouTube and is a daily breathing meditation video. This is a shortened version of the material that can be found on the mindfulness for parents online course offered by the authors. This video demonstrates meditations and guided imagery that can help parents become mindful and balanced.
Parenting Science was created to provide parents with evidence-based information about parenting and child development. This website was created by Gwen Dewar who received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan where she trained in behavioral ecology and Comparative Psychology. This website includes information surrounding the preschool aged child including cognitive development, learning, play, self control and sleep. It also includes information surrounding parenting including mindfulness, attachment and parenting styles.
Duncan, L. G., Coatsworth, J. D., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). A model of mindful parenting: implications for parent-child relationships and prevention research. Clinical child and family psychology review, 12(3), 255-70.
Meppelink, R., Bruin, E. I., Wanders-Mulder, F. H., Vennik, C. J., & Bögels, S. M. (2016). Mindful Parenting Training in Child Psychiatric Settings: Heightened Parental Mindfulness Reduces Parents’ and Children’s Psychopathology. Mindfulness, 7(3), 680-689. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0504-1
Perry, S., Hockenberry, M., Lowdermilk, D. & Wilson, D. (2017). Maternal Child nursing in Canada. 2nd edition. Toronto: Elsevier (Mosby).
Despite mindfulness seeming like an activity or practice designed more for adults, it can be extremely beneficial in young children as well, allowing them to learn to be present in the moment. Mindfulness is commonly defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Viglas & Perlman, 2018). Incorporating and teaching mindfulness daily with preschool-age children is a way to focus on developing healthy minds and promoting self-awareness and emotional regulation and management. While it may seem difficult or even impossible to have young children sit down for a long class of stretching or yoga, that is not the goal. The idea is to make it fun, create and incorporate games, promote laughter, and provide encouragement while teaching skills that will help childrem learn to self-regulate, manage stress or anxiety, and listen to their bodies.
It is important that activities and practice are age-appropriate in order to engage and educate children. This can include pictures, videos, objects, music, and simple movements – all tools that are appropriate for a preschooler and will allow them to focus and engage in an encouraging and supportive environment. It is important for children to develop mindfulness to help them cope even in situations when they are under pressure or stress. Mindfulness can also help alter how they meet and respond to certain challenges (Sheridan, 2016). Self-regulation is considered a critical component of school readiness, as these skills facilitate peer acceptance and social success, as well as academic performance in early elementary school (Razza, Bergen-Cico & Raymond, 2015).
Mindfulness can also be helpful preschoolers for decreasing anxiety and promoting happiness (Gelles, n.d.). Since self-regulation and social and emotional competence are significant predictors of school success, incorporating mindfulness practices into a preschoolers life can have lasting benefits into adulthood, as higher levels of regulation have been linked with positive developmental outcomes including greater self-esteem, professional attainment, and better health. Gains in self-regulation can also help decrease children’s maladaptive behaviours related to hyperactivity (Viglas & Perlman, 2018; Razza et al., 2018). It is important to recognize that the best way to teach your preschooler to be mindful is to embody the practice yourself. It is not like piano lessons, where you can have someone else teach your child, you have to learn it yourself (Gelles, n.d.).
One study found that preschool-aged children who were taught techniques such as focusing in on their breathing, received higher marks in school, as well as displayed an increase in social-emotional development and improved health (Flook, Goldberg, Pinger & Davidson, 2015). Other studies have shown that by teaching mindfulness to young children and allowing them to participate in mindfulness practices, children show improved social skills, reduced attention problems, and improved mental health (Crescentini, Capurso, Furlan & Fabbro, 2016).
Mindfulness Tips for Preschoolers
There are various types of meditation mindfulness practices that can be useful for preschoolers. Types of meditation practices include; focused attention (concentrating on a word, thought, sensation, or image); mindfulness-based stress reduction; movement-based meditation (yoga, or Tai chi); cultivating positive emotions; and emptying (centering prayer). Children need some down time during the day in order to function more effectively. Meditation practices are a great tool for preschoolers to learn how to calm themselves, while sitting or lying quietly and focusing on their breath (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017).
The length of time and number of days a preschooler should practice mindfulness can vary depending on their temperament, however it is recommended that preschoolers practice mindfulness for a few minutes per day. It may be best to practice these techniques before their bedtime, in order to calm them, which can have a positive effect on their sleep (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017). Incorporating age-appropriate practices can help to foster young children’s developing self-regulation and prosocial behaviour. More mindfulness-based programs should be implemented in early childhood classrooms to support the overall wellbeing of preschoolers (Viglas & Perlman, 2018).
Mindful Activities for Preschoolers
Introduction: Yoga is relaxing and builds breathing awareness. It is not only a calming activity but allows children to work on their balance, coordination, and flexibility as well as develops concentration and focus. Yoga is also an excellent activity to promote and work on mindfulness as it allows children to learn about the mind-body connection. Razza et al. (2015) also found that mindful yoga can be used to enhance self-regulation by allowing children to inhibit or control their impulses.
Elephant: Have children stand up tall and take big steps out to the side so they are standing with their feet far apart. Then have them bend at the hips and lean forward, putting their hands on the floor. Children can also sway their arms around as if it was their trunk, pretending to be an elephant.
Snake: Have children lay on their bellies with their hands down at their sides. Children will then use their back muscles to lift their head and shoulders up off the floor and hold for five seconds. Children can pretend they are a snake, slithering on the ground. Children can then lower their bodies down. This time, they can lift themselves with the hands in front, pushing up off the ground and lifting their head, chest, and bellies off the floor.
Crocodile: Have children come down onto their hands and knees. Then have them step their feet back onto their toes so that they are in a high-plank position. Have them hold this pose and tell them they are stretching crocodiles.
Flamingo: Have children stand tall. Tell them to bring their hands over top of their heads and high five themself at the top, keeping their hands touching. Then, tell children to try and lift one leg slowly of the ground, placing their heel onto the ankle or the knee of the leg they are standing on (ankle is easier). Have them try to hold it as long as they can and then tell them to try with the other leg. Tell the children they are balancing flamingos.
Bear: Have children come onto the hands and knees. Tell children to walk their feet back and make an upside-down V with their bodies, sticking their hips up into the air.
Tiger: Have children come on to their hands and knees. Tell children to tuck their chin into their chest and try to round their back like a cat or a tiger.
Hippo: Have children come to their hands and knees. Then tell the children to slowly push their bum back so they are sitting on their heels. Children can then slowly bring their heads down to the floor, just in front of their knees and place the arms back along the sides of the bodies. Have children take 8-10 deep belly breaths in this position, pretending they are a hippo sitting in the water.
Hedgehog: Have children lay on their backs. Then have them bring their knees into the chest and wrap their arms around their knees, giving their legs a hug. Children are curled up in a ball like a hedgehog. Have children hold this position while taking 5 deep, belly breaths.
Animal Yoga Video
This brief video demonstrates some of the poses described above:
Introduction: This exercise teaches deep breathing using a big muscle in our belly called the diaphragm. Sometimes when we breathe, we take quick and short breaths that just make our chest get bigger. Today we will learn how to breathe deeply, using the big muscle in our belly so that our chest AND our belly expand. Breathing deeply helps our bodies relax. If we are scared or anxious or nervous, our bodies cannot focus on taking deep breaths so instead we take quick, little breathes. By practicing deep breathing, we will be able to calm our bodies when we are scared or anxious, helping us slow down our heart rate and enter into a relaxation mode.
Have everyone in a circle, seated. Ask them to breathe normally. How does it feel? How do their body’s move?
Now have them lie on their backs and put a small rock on their bellies that they collected on their nature walk.
Tell the children to keep their mouths closed and have them breathe in through their nose for 3-4 seconds or until they feel that their whole belly is filled with air.
Have them hold the air for 3-4 seconds.
Have the children slowly blow the air out through their mouth until there is no more air in their bellies.
Repeat 8-10 times. How do their body’s feel now? How does their belly move or their body move differently? What if they have the rock on their belly and take small, quick breathes?
Tips: Exhale through a straw if children are having difficulty exhaling slowly. Teach children to do this when they are angry or scared, or even before bed!
View Our Belly Buddy Breathing Video
Video created by Anna Montabello and Rachel Hendry 1:18 mins, November 2018
Mindful Preschooler Resources
5 Outdoor Mindfulness Activities for Preschoolers
This resource provides 5 excellent outdoor mindfulness activities for preschoolers and their families. The 5 activities are: observe the clouds, hug a tree, make a nature mandala, go for a listening walk, and be an animal yogi. It offers ways for preschoolers to restore and connect outdoors after school. The best thing about this resource is that it is very easy for parents and young children to understand. There is a simple explanation of each activity, how to do it, and why it is important. These activities also require no planning, or extra equipment, can be done anywhere and only require 15-30 minutes of their time.
In this video, kids are able to use their imagination and practice focusing by imagining themselves in a peaceful place. They are also guided to sit still with their body straight and relaxed. Breathing is also practiced and they are guided to imagine their ‘happy’ place or somewhere they like having fun. The video also incorporates a popular figure (Winnie the Pooh) that kids might be familiar with. This would help them internalize a mindful practice. The woman’s voice in the video is also very calming and she allows children to use their senses to help relax their bodies. Then they are to imagine that they are giving a hug to someone they love. This is a great resource to help preschoolers feel relaxed, as well as use their imaginations and feel happy.
This resource teaches kids about mindful meditation and what happens when they let their mind wander. It teaches them how to bring their minds back. Kids are able to follow the woman’s calm voice and focus on their breathing. The video goes through meditation breathing and helping kids notice their breath and how the chest rises and falls. The video also helps kids refocus by talking about what kids may be thinking about instead of the mindfulness practice and tries to bring them back to their breath and again focusing on the rise and fall of their chest and how the air flows through their nose all the way into their body. This is a great resource as it is very calming and easy for kids to follow. Because it is 12 minutes long, it would require patience. A preschooler may have to complete this in parts if they start to have trouble focusing.
Sesame Street: Common and Colbie Caillat – “Belly Breathe” with Elmo
Belly breathe with Elmo is a perfect mindfulness resource for preschoolers. Preschoolers would love this as Elmo is in it and the music is very catchy. When Elmo is shown to be a monster and then deals with his anger inside, preschoolers get a visual of what may be happening to them and then learn how to deal with it. The singers are very clear with the instructions of what to do so it would be easy for preschoolers to follow. There are also demonstrations of children doing the belly breathing which allows for better understanding.
Body Scan Meditation is another great tool to help preschoolers relax. This is a great resource to use before bedtime to help calm a child and allow them to be in tune with their whole body and sensations. This resource would also be very good for school. If a child is having a hard time, they could go find a quiet place and listen to this to calm them down. It also tries to focus a child’s attention away from other things they may be thinking about such as feelings of anger or frustrations or restlessness and back to their body and being aware of the present moment.
This is an educational yoga video for kids and their parents. Throughout this video, they are taught how to relax in various ways. It offers a fun story with animals and kids can practice different yoga poses and work on their breathing. This is a very fun video for preschoolers and the animals that are incorporated into the video can catch their attention and help them through the video. It is simple and easy to follow and they use young children and older children to appeal to all ages. The animals in the video are great examples as the poses animals do in real life, the kids will know (for example, the cat on all fours and the snake lying on the floor). The animals in the video also speak about breathing. The video is an adequate length so a child should be able to follow it till the end.
Mindful Ozzy Introduces Mindfulness (Pre-k to Grade 2)
Mindful Ozzy teaches mindfulness by first talking about it as a superpower. He helps children understand why it would be important to practice mindfulness and focuses especially on breathing. He teaches children how to pay attention to their bodies by taking long deep breaths and filling up their bellies and breathing it all out. It is a very cute video and there are other animals that help Ozzy out. Another interesting part of the video is the 1-2-3 counting that also applies to preschoolers as they are learning how to count and may recognize those numbers. 1-2-3 is a great strategy for them to use to practice mindfulness and something they are familiar with.
This is a resource app that preschoolers can use themselves on the iPad or tablet as well as parents can use to help teach skills such as problem solving, self control, planning, and task persistence. From these apps, a preschooler laughs and learns as they help a Sesame street monster calm down and solve everyday challenges. For example, the child will tap and touch to help the monster friend take deep breaths, think of plans, and try them out. This is an excellent resource as a preschooler will love the animations and playful interactions as well as being exposed to important emotional vocabulary and a breathing technique. It is intended for children ages 2-5.
This is another resource app for kids ages 3+. It includes kid-friendly yoga, and meditation lessons from a big, happy dog. It is a non-profit organization so the cost is low for parents to buy the app for their preschooler. Preschoolers can use this resource on an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone. It is very educational, and easy to follow. This yoga app includes brief videos of yoga poses, songs, meditations, and positive thoughts. There are also games and colouring pages on the app. Kids will enjoy this app because it is fun and they may recognize the dog from its show on TV. Poses are presented by using animal moves or figurines, and some videos include kids with physical challenges doing yoga, showing anybody can modify poses to fit their needs. Wuf Shanti also gives kids (and parents) positive words and phrases to talk about and use in stressful moments.
Cosmic Kids offers many videos for preschoolers on yoga, meditation, and breathing, Cosmic kids has a Youtube channel and app so it would be easy for the parent of the preschooler to sign their child up. The Youtube channel is free but the app costs money. There are various mindful meditation yoga classes and ‘brain break’ videos. The Zen Den videos specifically help preschoolers visualize and ease their minds. Some of the yoga videos also incorporate physical activity, which would be fun for a child. The yoga specifically helps preschoolers develop body awareness. They learn how to use their bodies in a healthy way and are taught to manage stress through breathing, awareness, meditation and healthy movement. This is a great resource as Cosmic Kids offers many physical, emotional and learning benefits to a preschooler.
Crescentini, C., Capurso, V., Furlan, S., & Fabbro, F. (2016). Mindfulness-oriented meditation for primary school children: Effects on attention and psychological well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 805. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00805
Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., & Davidson, R. J. (2015). Promoting Prosocial Behavior and Self-Regulatory Skills in Preschool Children Through a Mindfulness-Based Kindness Curriculum. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 44–51. https://doi-org.ezproxy.kpu.ca:2443/10.1037/a0038256
Razza, R., Bergen-Cico, D., &; Raymond, K. (2015). Enhancing preschoolers’ self-regulation via mindful yoga. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 24(2), 372-385. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.kpu.ca:2080/10.1007/s10826-013-9847-6
Sheridan, C. (2016). The mindful nurse: Using the power of mindfulness and compassion to help You thrive in your work. Charleston, SC: Rivertime Press
Viglas, M., & Perlman, M. (2018). Effects of a mindfulness-based program on young children’s self- regulation, prosocial behavior and hyperactivity. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 27(1), 1150-1161. doi: 10.1007/s10826-017-0971-6
Building a Healthier & Happier Family through Mindfulness!
Welcome to mindful parenting for you & your family! This website will provide you with information to help strengthen and foster positive relationships between you and children in your family between 5 and 7 years old. Some of you may be wondering what it means to be mindful, and that is okay! Mindfulness will help you and your child manage stress (Sheridan, 2016). It will help you and your child become more aware of the present moment, thoughts and feelings (Sheridan, 2016). Mindfulness will also help strengthen the relationship and communication between you and your child!
Your Child’s Growing Bodies, Minds, & Ideas!
As your child’s body grows, so will his or her needs, thoughts, and behaviours. You play a bigrole in supporting your child’s growth and development. Your support in helping build relationships with peers, boosting self-esteem, and offering words of praise, encouragement and accomplishment are critical to positive child development (Perry et al., 2017). Here is a list of some of the changes you can expect your child to experience, coupled with ways you can help ensure positive growth:
Between the ages of 5 to 7, children continue to gain weight and height (Perry et al., 2017). As their bodies grow, so does their dietary needs. Your child may also lose his or first baby tooth during this time as well (Perry et al., 2017)! It is important to teach your child about healthy dental care and adult teeth!
Your child is starting to learn about feelings and how to react to different situations (National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, & First Nations Health Authority, 2013a). He or she may also begin to notice how others around them feel. You can help your child understand feelings better by asking questions such as:
How do you think this person feels?
Why do you think this person feels this way?
What do you think this person needs?
Your child is beginning to shape his or her personality (Perry et al., 2017). A loving and stable home and family environment can help shape a strong and healthy personality for your child. These interactions at home will influence the relationships that your child will form in school and community settings as well (Perry et al., 2017).
During the ages of 5 and 7, your child’s moral values will be a reflection of the ones you hold (Perry et al., 2017). The rules, behaviours, rewards, and discipline you practice at home will influence your child’s moral development.
These are just some of the changes your child may experience during the ages of 5 to 7 years. This web guide will help prepare you for these changes using mindfulness & communication techniques.
Ensuring Positive Family Meal Times, Dietary Habits, & Appetites!
As mentioned above, your child’s growth may lead to changes in appetite and food selection (Perry et al., 2017). He or she may become pickier with what they want to eat as well (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Fear not, for there are healthy ways to help your child overcome food preferences and methods for them to learn healthy meal time behaviours! It is important to remember to approach challenges such as this in a positive manner, without yelling, force, or shame. Here are some mindful tips when working through this:
Sometimes, children need to try foods more than once before they like it (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Try introducing the food on multiple occasions. Leave a space of time between when your child next tries the same food item. Let’s say your child does not like broccoli. Wait a week before getting your child to try broccoli again.
Set some rules for the dinner table (Weller, 2017). Some parents may let their child know that toys are not allowed at the table, food needs to stay on the plate, and everyone needs to help clean up. This will help your child understand what behaviours are appropriate during dinner time. You can help instill these behaviours by mirroring these actions as well (e.g. no cell phones at the table).
It is healthier to not use food as a type of reward for your child. Using food as a reward or way of showing affection can lead to your child using food as a way to cope with stress or other feelings (Gavin, 2015). Instead, you can use hugs, words of encouragement or affection, and one-on-one time to show your child you love them.
Involve your child in the food preparation and clean-up processes (Weller, 2017). Make sure to let them participate in age-appropriate tasks. For example, they can stir, cut soft vegetables, and serve food. By letting your child prepare the meal with you, they will know what to expect for meal prep, and they may be more open to trying new foods (Weller, 2017).
Let your child have some control over what they eat (Gavin, 2015). While it is important for you to buy healthy foods for your child to eat, you can give your child some choice as to what they would like from what you selected. It can also help to schedule regular meal and snack times for your child (Gavin, 2015).
Destress with Your Child: Breathing Circle Activity
We all know what stress feels like! Busy work schedules, taking the kids to lessons, paying bills; these are all things that may stress us adults out! Although your child is only 5, 6, or 7 years old, he or she experiences stress too! They may feel stress about starting school, making friends, fears, or trying a new activity (Perry et al., 2017). Since you and your child feel stress, why not destress together? By destressing with your child, you are teaching him or her a positive way to manage stress. Your child will look to you for how to react in stressful times and will learn and use these behaviours to manage his or her own stress as well (Perry et al., 2017).
Deep breathing is a mindful exercise known to be useful in managing one’s stress (Sheridan, 2016). It helps our minds focus on the present moment, and it helps to release stress and tension that can build within us (Sheridan, 2016). For this activity, you and your child can incorporate deep breathing and mindfulness as follows:
Let your child pick out a teddy bear or light toy to do this activity with. You can also get a teddy bear to help your child get more excited about this activity. For children 5 years old, it may be helpful for you to make a story about this teddy bear so that they are more engaged in the activity.
Everyone can lie in a circle together. Have your child focus on the teddy bear while taking a deep breath in, followed by a deep breath out. If it helps your child to know how long to breathe, they can count to 3 while breathing in. They can also count to 3 when breathing out. Your child’s focus will remain on his or her breathing, as well as the rise and fall of the teddy bear. As a result, he or she will be more aware of the present moment, breathing rate, and the calmness in the situation (Sheridan, 2016). You will notice that you also experience these same emotions when participating in this activity.
You and your child can do this activity for a minute or two at least three times a day. Remember to talk to your child about how he or she feels before and after the activity. This helps to ensure that both you and your child are on the same page about the benefits of this activity on coping with stress. This activity can help calm your child in stressful or anxiety-provoking situations.
Try the Destress with Nature Video
Video created by Aliya Khan 2 mins, November 2018
Mindful Parenting Resources
Teaching Children Mindful Awareness And Self-Love Through Stories
One of the ways that you can build a positive relationship with your child is by reading together. Your child may begin learning how to read between the ages of 5 to 7. Through reading, your child develops exploration skills, and expands his or her imagination and knowledge (Perry et al., 2017). Reading with your child has also proven to build a stronger relationship between you both (Hyra, 2015). In this section, discussions about age-appropriate books, as well as methods to enhance learning and inquisition during reading are discussed. For example, the use of picture books can help your child better understand a story. Asking questions and allowing questions are also two ways that learning during reading periods can be made better (Miller & Stoeckel, 2019). Cuddling with your child while reading is an excellent way to show your love and affection for your child as well (Hyra, 2015). Click the link below to explore these ideas further!
With your child starting school, there is a high chance that he or she may come home with a bug! This section will discuss exciting and interactive ways that can help you teach your kids about ways to stop bugs from coming home and getting them sick (e.g. proper handwashing). Each activity keeps in mind that children in this age group learn best through their own experiences and social interaction (Perry et al., 2017). Sentences are kept short, and words are no longer than 8 letters so that your child can participate in the interactive, online games (Miller & Stoeckel, 2019). A play-based approach is taken to a lot of the activities, as this is an effective way of teaching your child and building a strong bond between you and your child (Perry et al., 2017). The simplified language ensures that your child can better understand the information shared in these education tools. Your child can play or participate in each activity with you, or with another peer.
Children between the ages of 5 to 7 may be able to know rules specific to behaviours, words, and situations; however, they do not yet know the reasons behind such rules (Perry et al., 2017). Likewise, having a rewards and punishment system may help them to identify which behaviours are “bad” and which are “good.” Unfortunately, this system may lead kids in this age group to think that accidents or injuries they experience are a result of them being bad (Perry et al., 2017). It is important for you to talk to your child about why they are being rewarded or punished. It is also crucial to let your little one know that no one is to blame when accidents such as falling off a bike happens (Perry et al., 2017). By having honest, nonjudgmental, and open conversations with your child about discipline, you are fostering a bond of trust between you and your son or daughter (Austin & Boyd, 2015). Your child will carry this trust and shared information with them in later years of life as well (National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health & First Nations Health Authority, 2013b). Thus, this web page will provide you with tips on how you can speak to your child about accidents, rewards, and punishments. You will also learn about healthy ways you can reward and discipline your child.
Self-regulation can be defined in various ways. In the most basic sense, it involves controlling one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit of long-term goals. More specifically, emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses. In other words, to think before acting. It also reflects the ability to cheer yourself up after disappointments and to act in a way consistent with your deepest held values.
Self Care – why it’s the first step to Mindful Parenting
Parenting is never an easy task. Parents might make mistakes sometimes and that’s okay! No parent is perfect. The video displayed on this page will help you learn to bask in the present moment and forgive yourself. This page will also focus on self-care as well. Parenting can be stressful in itself; couple it with finances, meal preparation, and work responsibilities, and you are looking at high levels of stress! A build-up of stress without any efforts of its relief can lead to burnout, an emotional explosion, or a perception that the usual fun stuff is now a chore (Roberts, 2017).
Roberts, L. (2017, January 24). Why self-care is an important part of parenting, and how to make time for it. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/in-defense-of-a-parents-day-off/2017/01/23/270ffafc-d8f2-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e2be3f92c0cd
Rosario, S. (2015). Parents and their kids cook healthy and tasty meals. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parents_and_their_kids_cook_healthy_and_tasty_meals_150321-A-ZT122-110.jpg
Rossi, S. (2007). Breathe. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnzlea/866110617
Sheridan, C.B. (2016). The mindful nurse: using the power of mindfulness and compassion to help you thrive in your work. Lexington, KY: Rivertime Press.
Skeeze. (2015). Family Eating at the Table. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/family-eating-at-the-table-dining-619142/