Meditating With a 7-yr-old

They teach us just as much as we teach them.

The other day I was helping my daughter study for her spelling test. It was the week she had words in addition to dictation. I was getting frustrated because all week she’d been struggling with the same word (“answered”), and the more she kept getting it wrong, the more she was spiraling down into spelling everything else incorrectly.

At the root of my frustration was the fact that I thought her words were quite difficult, and then the day before the test, she was assigned additional homework. I was annoyed at all she had to do and how much time it was taking her (us) to do it. Of course she could sense my annoyance and on top of that she was getting upset by her mistakes. It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, a recipe for a meltdown.

I wanted to call it quits. It was already 8pm (her bedtime) and we still had dictation to do, with words like “accompany” and “a stone’s throw” — mustn’t forget the apostrophe because it was an idiom and not meant to be reflective of the quantity of stones thrown—and this only increased my annoyance. But then I had an idea!

I moved us to her room where we sat on the edge of her bed with our legs crossed, holding hands. Her face was sour, her posture curved, and my tolerance was about used up, but I told herto breathe in through her nose and exhale through her mouth. I instructed her to close her eyes and imagine she had a balloon, one that was her favorite color. Then I told her to put all her frustrations in that balloon until it was filled: answered, accompany, argued, and coaxed. I told her to put in her self-doubt (which took explaining) and then she was to tie it off at the end and watch it float away.

In between filling up the balloons, we inhaled and exhaled. At the end of five minutes, we had “watched” four balloons float away. By the time we stopped, we were both calmer, and I was staring at a different kid. The words and dictation were still just as difficult, but her mindset had shifted—only by a little—but it was enough for her to spell “answered”. And once she nailed that, the rest seemed to come easily.

I felt like I had just experienced a mommy win, and as any mother would tell you, those aren’t easy to come by.

Managing my emotions is often just as challenging as helping her manage her own. There never seems to be enough time to sort through my own frustrations before I’m thrust into helping one of my kids deal with their’s. It’s like we’re constantly in motion, and I’m constantly trying to think faster so I can provide better answers.

Yesterday, she finished her math homework and we were about to study for her end-of-term spelling test (30 words), when she said she was feeling frustrated and wanted to do that “breathing” thing.

I was so shocked for a moment that I didn’t immediately respond. But once I gathered myself, I took us to her room and we did a 10-min meditation session together. Truthfully, she fidgeted a lot, but I was so impressed that she actively seeked it out as a way to calm herself that I didn’t care how often her face itched or how many times she tucked that same strand of hair behind her ear.

Look, I have no illusions that homework will suddenly become easier. We will need to continue to find ways to manage the workload. But for now, for this week and this moment in time, I’m celebrating our win.

For many years, I’ve put off meditating because it always seemed like another thing on an already too-long list of things to do. Besides, why should I sit there and “do” nothing, when I could actually accomplish something?

Recently, I had a mindset shift (midlife crisis), and I’ve started getting my proverbial feet wet. I’ve found meditation has helped me reclaim my peace and center — something I’ve been struggling with ever since I had children.

There are days when I struggle to find those precious fifteen minutes, but I’m prioritizing it, even when it means I meditate just before bed.

If you’re looking for apps to help you get started on your journey, I’ve tried Calm, Headspace, and Smiling Mind. I like Smiling Mind because it also offers kid-friendly meditation sessions; although, I prefer Calm for myself.