“Can I sit on the couch and have a snack and take a rest?”
We are so often on the go! Between school, classes, practices, trips to the store and visits with friends some days feel like a continuous stream of stimuli from all directions. It can be enough to give any child (or adult) some sensory overload. And with sensory overload comes angry outbursts, tantrums and meltdowns.
It can be difficult to find a sensory break when we’re in a hurry. A tantrum is difficult at any time but especially on the busiest days, and busy days usually mean we’re rushing to eat. Fruit snacks, crackers, granola bars, a swing through the drive-through. But mindfulness techniques can introduce a surprising new way of eating that will calm your angry child.
Mindfulness can be defined as:
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Babies and young children are naturally very mindful. They have very little problem being in the moment. It’s pretty much all they know. As we grow and experience more stress and anxiety staying mindful becomes increasingly difficult.
But there are many benefits to mindfulness:
- Reduced stress
- Increased cognitive ability
- Body awareness
- Emotional awareness
Learning to be mindful takes time and practice. And there are many techniques including breathing, exercises, and sensory activities that can be helpful in training the brain to be in the moment. With a little guidance, eating a snack or meal can also become a mindfulness technique.
A Surprising New Way of Eating To Calm an Angry Child
Mindful Bites– a mindful eating session involves bringing awareness to the entire experience.
- Sit and notice your body in the chair.
- Take deep breaths before you begin to eat.
- Bring the food slowly to your mouth.
- Notice all aspects of food using the senses.
Questions to guide the session:
- How does the food look? What colors do you see?
- How does it feel in your hand? What is the texture?
- Does it have a smell? Is the smell appetizing?
- What sensations do you notice in your body as you prepare to eat the food?
- How does the food feel in your mouth?
- Does it remind you of any other foods?
A session of mindful eating may seem like an awkward experience. But it is making powerful connections in the brain to enable mindful awareness in other areas of life. And there are ways to incorporate mindfulness into eating without making every meal a slow and deliberate examination of the food.
- Try a variety of foods with different tastes and textures.
- Bring awareness to the feeling of hunger.
- Express gratitude before eating.
- Slow down while eating, completely finish one bite before picking up another.
- Do not multi-task and turn off the TV
- Notice and enjoy quiet or the sounds of the environment while eating.
Mindfulness has many emotional and physical benefits for calming anxiety.
Often with an angry child, that anger stems from a place of deep anxiety. Rather than getting frustrated with our children for their behaviors, we need to help them address the underlying feelings that cause those behaviors.
A mindful eating session helps to calm our kids and give them a sense of peace and control. It helps to keep them grounded, and it can give your angry child some sensory input that they’re so often needing.
And a mindful approach to eating can help develop a healthy relationship with food and diet. Paying attention to how food is prepared will bring an appreciation for its importance. Bringing awareness to what we eat cultivates an understanding of the relationship between food and nutrition. And mindfully noticing what the body feels when it’s hungry develops our sense of interoception.
Have you tried mindful eating before with your kids?
Amy is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom and writer. She loves sharing what she knows about family, play and early learning. Away from the computer you can find her spending family time, organizing or decorating her home, reading a good self-help and occasionally pretending she knows how to cook but she usually leaves that to her awesome husband! You can find out more about her at Firefly Writing.