No matter what age group we’re discussing, family and peer support are critical in rehabilitation. This can be said for addiction or mental illness. However, children are at an age when they need tons of support in all aspects. Whether we realize it or not, children appreciate structure in their life, and the most immediate structure they are familiarized with is their home structure. Parental support is vital to your child’s development. They need the motivation to complete treatment and maintain sobriety. Feeling empathy and compassion from their family helps them maintain a sense of confidence and well-being, which will promote success in their recovery.
Mindfulness Activities to Practice as a Family
There are quite a few mindfulness exercises to choose from and not all of them work for everyone. Finding exercises that fit your child’s needs is critical. Here are three activities to get you started at home with your child, either one-on-one or as a family.
Focus on Breathing
This is a common technique used in the teaching of all meditation. The reason why focusing on breathing is a cornerstone of meditation is because it creates a sense of calm and control. Rather than becoming upset by things we have little control over, we focus our attention on something we can control: our breathing.
Try creating a time where you and your child practice breathing exercises. Inhale through your nostrils and out through your mouth, trying to fill your lungs as much as possible and emptying until you can’t any longer. Focus on the sensations this creates, whether they are physical or emotional. The more this is practiced, the better you will become at controlling your breathing patterns.
This exercise doesn’t have to only be practiced in a quiet setting. This method can be used anytime your child feels urges to use or is facing negative emotions. Explain to your child that this can be practiced in places like sitting at a desk in school, waiting in line at a store, or while riding in a car—anywhere that they feel stress is becoming overwhelming.
In general, we tend to view being busy as being productive. We equate worthiness with what we succeed in accomplishing. Therefore, multi-tasking has become a virtue in our society. But is it healthy to remain busy constantly? No; it simply is not. The practice of mindfulness has always suggested that stepping away from the business of life and to simply “be” is vital to well-being. Science is beginning to suggest this, also.
The Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu asks, “Do you have the patience to wait until the mud has settled and your waters are clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises on its own?” This is an excellent meditative phrase to promote the idea of stillness. The practice of stillness is a great tool for impulse control, which can help your child deal with cravings. Stillness also helps us understand that recovery is not a destination, but a journey. Sometimes we need to be still to see how far we’ve come.
Stillness can be practiced by watching ripples in the water of creeks or streams, watching the flight of birds in the sky, observing an animal in their moment-to-moment actions. It is the simplest form of mindfulness meditation and can be performed anywhere and anytime necessary. You can practice this with your child by finding a location to sit peacefully. Holding a conversation with each other is not necessary, but perhaps the stillness will open a door for communication with your child about their recovery.
Practice Loving Compassion
The practice of loving compassion allows us to reconnect with our humanity. Humans have a natural need for human connection and companionship. Often in addiction, people feel like they have lost connection with their friends, families, and selves. Loving compassion helps your child to learn tools of self-love. This is vital to recovery. With self-love comes acceptance of what is, and through acceptance, we find progress.
If you feel like you’ve lost connection with your child, practice loving compassion. This will be your opportunity to repair damaged connections between you and your child. This is also a time to show your child you love them and support their recovery. Perhaps it will also build trust as an avenue for more open dialogue about their feelings. Sometimes, telling your child that you support them is not enough—they need to see it, or feel it, to realize it’s there.
Using language that promotes empathy is key to loving compassion. Talking to your child about the struggles of life is important because we all face them. Using phrases such as “just like me” can create a sense of connection. Your child needs to hear that they have urges and emotions just like everyone else, and most importantly, just like their family.
While these are the simplest ways to practice mindfulness with your child, they are also the most important. They lead to success in other mindfulness practices. True Buddhist meditation is hard to accomplish when dealing with impulses and stress. Even the Zen Buddhists realize this and formed their type of Japanese zen meditation called Zazen, which is done with open eyes. This type of meditation is designed to give you a connection to your environment. Apply this to stillness and you can see how the practice of mindfulness translates throughout many societies and periods. It translates into recovery, as well. Supporting mindfulness techniques in your child’s recovery is key to their success.
At Sustain Recovery, we work with you and your child to create a customized treatment plan, founded on evidence-based therapies. To learn more about how meditation and mindfulness can help your child as they navigate their recovery, please contact us today at (949) 407-9052.