“So, how was school today?”
“What did you do?”
With shoulders shrugged, “I don’t know.”
This is one example of how hard it can be as a parent to get your children to open up to you. I know that I have encountered something similar with my own kids. Establishing a solid relationship and maintaining good communication with your children is tremendously important – now more than ever.
Children face all kinds of stressors from family, friends, school, sports and especially social media. Some children are able to cope well, but others need help. Pediatricians are starting to see more patients with behavioral health issues. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 in 5 children in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression.
As a parent, one simple way to connect with your children is to practice mindfulness with them. Contrary to popular belief, this topic does not only refer to meditation. Mindfulness is about focusing your awareness on the present moment. This practice can help alleviate anxiety which is essentially worrying about a problem in the future. With mindfulness, you can help bring your child to the present moment and to focus on what is happening today.
One method you can practice with your children is the Rose-Thorn-Bud technique. This three-part thinking and reflection model teaches children to think about the achievements, opportunities and obstacles they encountered that day.
- Start with the positive. Ask your child what was the highlight, or rose, of his or her day. What did they enjoy about the day, what did they achieve?
- Then move into the tougher part of their day. What was the thorn or low point of his/her day?
- Next, focus on what’s immediately ahead. What are you looking forward to tomorrow or sometime in the near future? That is the bud.
This simple exercise helps you to practice gratitude by reflecting on the positive. Think of it as a healthy mental pause in your busy schedules. It also teaches the child you that with the good, there is the bad. Children can learn that encountering a challenge is ok, and that they will persevere. As for the bud, having something to look forward to can significantly contribute to one’s happiness.
Another benefit of the Rose-Thorn-Bud technique is that it works for both children and adults. Thus, the entire family can participate in this conversation and opportunity for connection. You may be surprised how interested your children are in your day. You can also practice this method anywhere—even in the car on the way to school or running errands, although being able to make eye contact is best.
While the Rose-Thorn-Bud method is not a one-and-done solution to all of life’s challenges, hopefully it can be a useful and easy-to-implement tool to help you practice mindfulness with your child and improve trusting communication between you and your children.