Book Reviews Meditation Instruction

finding a reason for family mindfulness practice: The Self-Driven Child

Everywhere, everywhere mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, forest bathing, sophrology–the solutions to the cultural tidal wave of anxiety, depression and less-than-ideal mental health are explained to adults and kids.  Everyone from Buddhist teachers to Oprah and mainstream media have told us WHY we should make it a part of our day.


But change requires a catalyst, a reason, an inspiring moment that sparks the beginning; the energy and motivation to move the first pawn of the game forward.  You also have to stay with the game until someone gets a checkmate.


As parents, children are often the catalyst for change. We adapt our lives to them, change our daily schedules for their taekwondo classes or drum lessons. And many of us are more likely to make a change for them than ‘just’ for ourselves.  A common story among parents is the desire to lose weight and get healthy for their kids.


Just like making time for physical health, we see research showing we should make time for mental health as well. I recently read The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over their Lives. This book hopes to be a chemical in the formation of your catalyst–we have the beaker full of bubbling potion over the Bunsen burner flame, and this book aspires to be that final ingredient cautiously dropped in to make a big puff of smoke and dramatic color change in the potion.  It wants to move you enough to make the change in yourself and then in your parenting style.


In a broad sense, this book is for parents of older kids and teenagers. Having a first grader, it gave me an idea of trajectory for some of the issues on the horizon and how to hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls before we get there, preparing him for the challenges ahead.


The first message, as in so many other instances, is to take care of ourselves first.  We can’t be stressed out and anxious while lecturing our kids on managing THEIR stress and anxiety. We have to do the work first.

Some quotes from The Self-Driven Child:

Chronic stress wreaks havoc on a brain, especially on young brains.  Rates of stress-induced illnesses are extremely high in every demographic, and researchers are working furiously to uncover the reasons behind the rise in anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, binge drinking and worrisome patterns of self-harm in young people.” (p.8)


“Chronic stress can create a feeling of helplessness…

A sense of control is the antidote to stress…” (p.22)


A vital key in managing all of the above is mindfulness, meditation, time in nature, planned relaxation and rest.  The yin to the yang of life.  So, read this book or not, but the research is overwhelmingly in favor of all of us–the whole family– finding tools to manage stress.  Just find something that works.  My previous blogs give resources for working this into your day, and while it is focused on homeschooling, anyone can add in the books, videos and techniques. You just have to pick one (poof! The catalyst moves you forward) and try it yourself, and then share it with your family.


To make it easy, Imagine Clarity is an amazing website/app that has both resources for adults and children, and includes explanatory videos by an amazing scientist and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard and guided meditations for adults and children. It isn’t a free app, but it is extensive, thorough and as a Buddhist monk Ricard isn’t in it for the money.  He has a charity and gives information on where the money goes on the site/app.

How have you and your family introduced mindfulness? I’d love to hear what works for you!

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