For the past several years I have tried to become less busy. You see, I have the “I can’t say no” disease. I like to help people. It is what fills my love tank. However, I started to get anxious and very stressed with my volunteer obligations coupled with a full-time job change and two active boys as they entered elementary school.

Through research and an online class, I learned about mindfulness. Yes, I learned how to meditate effectively via YouTube! I also meditate regularly with the Napa Valley Insight Meditation group. Meditating was life-changing for me. I suddenly became hyper-focused and more productive. I was more patient with my children and found myself yelling less.

My challenge was that I was often interrupted by my children while meditating. So instead of locking myself in a room (we all know how well that works) or waiting until they were asleep, I decided to incorporate being mindful with my children. Come to find out it was a parenting win!

Research has proven that mindfulness can help our children improve their attention resulting in higher performance at school. Children who are mindful have greater self-compassion. Studies also found that mindfulness reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. Such benefits lead to long-term improvements in life.

First, I taught my children how to tune into what makes them happy. When I notice we are having a good time, I ask them to stop what they are doing, close their eyes, and have a “mindful moment.” We all take a deep breath. We inhale and slowly exhale. I then ask them to focus on what they smell. Next, I instruct them to listen to the sounds they hear. When it is a sunny day I coach them to enjoy the warmth of the sun on their skin.

Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth, but it is also the most stressful. Am I wrong? I am sure the people around us thought we had just landed from a rocket ship when they saw us all holding hands and taking deep breaths in the middle of Tomorrow Land. Yes! We managed to have a mindful moment in the middle of chaotic Disneyland.

These mindful moments have come in very handy during Covid-19 and especially throughout homeschooling when my children are upset or have a meltdown. To help them calm down we all take deep breaths and I say, “Let’s think about our happy place. What do you smell, I ask? What do you see?” We imagine ourselves in our happy place and then I ask, “how do you feel?” We all stand still for about a minute or two to calm down. More often than not, practicing mindfulness with my children has helped reduce their stress and anxiety towards situations.

Lastly, we practice gratitude daily. We turned a Napa Rock into a “Gratitude Rock.” Starting the day with the “attitude of gratitude” on our way to school has transformed our morning routine. You can read more about how my family practices gratitude daily in a past blog, A love story: When the Attitude of Gratitude met a Napa Rock.

You don’t need any fancy meditation chairs or floor mats. Your children don’t need to sit in the lotus position. I promise you, your child can sit or stand quietly for 1 to 2 minutes. That is all it takes!

With patience, you can teach them to tune out the noise (like we did at Disneyland) and stand quietly. It feels good. It will improve their concentration and help them manage through the stress and anxiety we are all feeling these days. It also helps you be present in the moment and enjoy their happy place with them.

References & Suggested Reading

1. “Research on Mindfulness in Education.” Mindful Schools,

2. Experience Mindfulness: How Quiet Time Makes You Feel.  Jean C. Lawler, Red Chair Press, 2019. (Available at the Main Napa Library)

3. Napa Valley Insight Meditation (NVIM) offers meditation training and spiritual teachings. They are dedicated to supporting the cultivation of mindful awareness and compassion in daily life.

_____

Claudette Shatto has lived in the Napa Valley for 20 years. She is married with two elementary-aged children. Although she is extremely active in her community and her sons’ school, she is not your average PTA Mom.  She avoids the Pinterest-inspired classroom potlucks and instead lends her expertise to the school’s digital communication efforts.
When not teaching at Napa Valley College you can find her in an elementary classroom teaching the Entrepreneur Mindset to 5th graders.  Her recent passion project is teaching leadership to kindergarten and first graders. She is a classic type A, life-long over-achiever and is dedicated to serving her community.