I was visiting a friend the other day who was travelling to Australia with their baby daughter and who was concerned (naturally) about the long flight from the UK and how she would cope. This prompted me to share a few ideas that might help you if you are worried about travelling and how we can bring in mindfulness and meditation to help ease some of the journey woes.
Focussing on the breath – many of us know how powerful the breath is. However it’s important to help your children learn about the breath to help them feel calmer. Feeling the breath (placing hands on the tummy or chest), counting the breath and even making a sound on the out breath all help children to focus on the breath and be in the moment.
If children are feeling nauseous we can even combine a word with the breath to help. Place their hands on their tummy and ask them to focus on their tummy with the breath and think/breathe the word ‘calm’.
The colour breath is a great one to use anywhere! In my book. ‘Calm Kids’ there’s more information about how to do this. Ask them to think of a colour, surround themselves in it and breath it in. Remind them that the colour is calm, peaceful, cool or whatever quality you feel they need.
Using the Imagination – in such busy places as airports it’s a great idea to get kids to imagine that they have a special ‘gold’ spacesuit that they wear in busy places. The special spacesuit helps keep them safe and it helps them cut out all the noise and stress (this is especially great for kids with autism).
Sound – The alternative is to get children to focus on a sound – it could be the sound of a car, or the sound of the wind or even on the sound of the plain taking of so that their mind is on this and not anything else (for those few moments).
Meditation ‘Games’ – If they don’t want to do the colour breath, you could always ask them to choose a colour and notice it outside. Pick really unusual colours to see. We turned this into a game with our nephew – we all had to pick a colour and on the motorway we counted the cars of our colour and whoever reached 25 first won!
Listening to a meditation CD – this is a useful option too so you can have it on your mp3 player or ipod and they can spend time with their eyes closed just enjoying an imaginative journey. (You can find more of our children’s meditation CDs here).
Special Travel Stone/Crystal – whether or not you believe that crystals work, they are a tangible way to give our children a ‘worry stone’. They can breath into it with their stress, they can hold it to their tummy or chest and breath in the crystal’s calmness, or they can simply play with it in their hands.
Mandalas – although these are primarily used as meditation tools, colouring in a mandala brings an opportunity for focussed attention and the energy of the mandalas can help children to feel quieter and safer (free mandalas on this link).
Storytelling – ask your children to teach you a meditation. Call it story telling if this helps them to understand what you want them to do. It helps them to use their imagination.
Labyrinths – these are also a great way to keep children focussed – using a pen to follow their way into the labyrinth then following it back out. You can find a free labyrinth design to print here. Make it a ‘contest’ to see who can be the slowest to complete it!
Have a Travel Toolbag – be prepared for your journey and don’t expect one mindful activity to be the answer for the whole journey. Have lots of options ready to use for your kids, and you.
Calm Adults, Calm Kids – travelling is as stressful for children as it is for adults (and often kids pick up on the stress parents feel). So make sure you are grounded and centred first (focus on your breath to help with this and think “calm”). The more you can do to feel calmer, the more your kids will reflect this. They are the mirrors of your energy.