How Mindfulness Helps Families Cope With Stress

April 27, 2020

Mindfulness means slowing down to notice what is happening in the present moment. All you need to do is focus on one thing right now and gently catch yourself when your brain creates judgments or distractions. Mindfulness can be helpful during times of uncertainty and stress.

Regular mindfulness practice can:

  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress
  • Increase compassion for yourself and others and reduce emotional reactivity
  • Focus your attention and gain distance from constant news cycle consumption
  • Provide an opportunity to slow down and notice emotions, thoughts, and urges
  • Provide an opportunity to come together as a family

Practicing Mindfulness as a Family

Explain the purpose of practicing mindfulness. Try telling your family, “We do this to help train our brains to focus on the here and now.”

As a family, pick an activity, like one of the exercises below, or object to focus on. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and ask family members to bring their attention to the object/activity.

Family at home
Mindfulness practice can be helpful to families during times of uncertainty and stress

Alert family members when their attention wanders from the activity. Parents should notice when their kids’ (or partner’s) attention has wandered. Gently bring their attention back to the activity without judgment. Everyone should resist the urge to be silly and/or competitive.

After the activity, share observations with your family:

  • What did you notice?
  • Where did your mind go?
  • Did you notice any thoughts, feelings, urges, physical sensations, or judgments?

Mindfulness Exercises for Families

Try practicing mindfulness with your family once a day.

Twist and Shout

Each family member writes the words “twist,” “shout,” “baby,” and “shake” on a piece of paper. Each person makes a tally mark for every time they hear one of these four words as they listen to the song “Twist and Shout.”

Tear a Horse

Each family member is given a blank piece of paper. Everyone closes their eyes. When someone says “start,” each person tries to rip their paper into the shape of a horse without looking. Everyone shares their “horses” at the end.

Pass the Cup

Fill up a cup with water so that it is only an inch from the rim. Sit in a circle. Silently pass the cup around the circle, trying not to spill it. After five successful passes, start passing it around with everyone’s eyes closed.

Build a Story

Family members sit in a circle and take turns saying one sentence in a story. They create the story together, one line at a time, until the timer goes off.

Shoe Mindfulness

For one minute, have family members observe each other’s shoes. Then, each person describes the shoes without judgment and with overly specific language, such as “Your shoes are black and have white laces.” If someone makes a judgment, like “Your shoes are cute,” ask, “What makes you say that?” to prompt more descriptive language.