According to the American Psychological Association's "Stress in America" survey (2009), there is a serious disconnect between parents and children in terms of stress management. Says the APA, many parents "are not modeling healthy behavior when it comes to stress management," and many children "don’t appear to be getting the support they need to identify and understand stress or to learn healthy strategies for managing stress."
Even though 80 percent of children say they learn about healthy living from their parents, about one-half of parents report they are not doing enough to manage their own stress. Additionally, two-thirds of parents actually believe their stress has little or no impact on their children. And on top of that, many parents are not accurately aware of how much stress their children are actually experiencing.
The disconnect, I suspect, may have something to do with the fact that we spend so much time living in different worlds—playing our own games, surfing on our own computers, watching our own television programs. Trying to get everyone to spend time together or do the same thing can be stressful in itself.
But there is a great way to encourage the whole family to reduce stress—and spend time together—without forcing everyone to think the same thing, play the same sport, watch the same program, listen to the same music or even talk about the same subject. It's called a Family Minute.
As you may have guessed, the Family Minute is a Portable Minute
that you all do together. You could do it before meals or to mark special occasions. You could also do it each night before bedtime (to wash away the stress of the day) or each morning (before the mad rush starts).
Learning the Family Minute also gives you a novel twist on time-outs. In the classic time-out, a child is sent to his/her room after acting out. However, a time-out could have an even greater opportunity—an opportunity for self-care.
In this case, it would help if your children knew how to use a time-out constructively. For example, they could learn how to unhook their minds from the stressful situation, settle into their breathing, tap into a more peaceful part of themselves and then return to the problem (if it's still there) with fresh eyes. In other words, a time-out could be more like a Portable Minute. Perhaps we should call it a "time-in."
The next time your child becomes stressed or begins to act out, wouldn't it be great if he or she could say to you, "You know, Mom, I think I need a Portable Minute now"...and then immediately started doing one? Or he/she could say, "I really need a Portable Minute now. Would you help me, Mom, by doing one with me?"
Of course, if you want your children to adopt this kind of behavior, you have to start modelling it yourself. In other words, you must let your children see you taking a Minute when you need one. So the next time you're stressed out and you happen to be in front of the children, just acknowledge you're stressed and tell them you need a Portable Minute. Then do one—immediately.
They may find it strange at first, but they'll get used to it. By doing this, you will have transformed your stress into a teachable moment, giving your children an extremely useful skill for life. Of course, the Family Minute is also useful for adult families. Surely every family, no matter how old everyone is, would be better off if everyone felt empowered to raise a hand and say, "I think we need a Minute here."
Today, I suggest you teach a Basic Minute or a Portable Minute to someone in your family—and even invite him or her to do one together with you. Get started with the Portable Minute nowMartin Boroson is a playful, practical new voice in the next wave of meditation teachers. Author of
One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he lectures on the benefits of a meditative mind for decision-making and leadership. Marty studied philosophy at Yale, earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is a formal student of Zen. Visit his website for One-Moment Meditation® help and resources, tweet him at @takeamoment or find him on Facebook.
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Did you teach the Basic or the Portable Minute to someone in your family today? How is the course going for you so far? Let us know—leave your comments and questions below!