Written by: Stephanie Van De Ven – The Mindful Mama

My son started showing signs of anxiety a few years ago. At around 8 years old he began tapping his fingers on any surfaces that he could several times in a row and making what I thought was strange-throat noises from his throat. He would also blink his eyes often and have to know every detail of what we were doing later that day, evening or the next day. I even made him a schedule.

It was around the same time where his Dad decided to move to Arizona for work. Already having been separate for a long time, I didn’t see how this would affect him, but it has deeply and I didn’t see it at the time.

Then came the stomach aches – a lot of the times it would ‘conveniently’ happen before school, or I would get a call from school during the day and I’d have to pick him up. Once home, it was like nothing had happened at all and it would infuriate me because I didn’t understand what was happening.

Until I fully understood that my son was experiencing anxiety and presenting in ways that were subtle to most, but very clear to me – I wasn’t able to support him properly.

Not only was he suffering internally without ways to express how he was feeling, but his sleep was suffering, and his days were long and exhausting.

Cue the guilt and parent-failure feelings. Can you possibly relate?

As parents, we look at our children through a lens of love and it’s very hard to see those imperfections and subtleties that come creeping up. It’s our job to not only pay the bills, hold down employment, take care of our little ones, but it’s also our job to teach them how to manage and cope when things get tough.

Here is how we found Zen in Ten, together:

  1. Journaling or writing notes to each other – we love this! When something is bothering us, we write notes to each other or we pass a book back and forth. This is healing and a wonderful way to connect. It’s also something to look forward to as we share the hard stuff and the good stuff too.
  2. Mindful Breathing – we practice the pause and mindfully breathe together. We’ll do a bunch of different exercises that I teach in my practice and business, or we’ll just take a few nice big deep breaths and re-focus.
  3. Meditation – often times, my son will curl up with me and meditate, or he’ll do some kind of craft quietly while I play gentle music in the background. Having this time away from screens and the busy hustle and bustle of life in general is a welcome break for us both.
  4. Exercise – my son can now self-regulate at 11 years old, so he’ll identify when he’s “ in a mood” and go outside to play, ride his bike, shoot the hockey puck or play basketball. This helps him feel so much better.
  5. Yoga – we do yoga together – and even if for just 10 minutes a day – we stretch and connect. Every other week he joins me at yoga class and that same night he sleeps like a rock.
  6. Date nights – we love spending quality time together even if it’s not as often as we’d like. We’ll go to Starbucks – grab something yummy, and then pick a good book to read at Chapters. It’s quiet and relaxing – and we’re learning something at the same time – win!
  7. Activities – I always enroll him in activities or interest classes like cooking classes or sports. Having a hobby or something interesting to both focus on and re-focus is so very healthy. It also gives me time to do a few errands if I choose -and parents need self-care and time to recharge too.
  8. Baths – I often suggest that he has a bath – we’ll load it up with bubbles and bath-bombs, play gentle meditation music and he’ll just chill for 30 minutes alone, while I put away laundry or watch a bit of TV – win-win for both!
  9. Bedtime – we use lavender oil, a Himalayan salt lamp and reading before bed – all tricks to slow down the brain and settle into a peaceful and calm state of mind.
  10. Professional support– my son sees a professional therapist to help navigate through his anxiety and stresses – in addition to our 10 zen steps. Having a support team around you is so crucial, and I’m always open to learning from other professionals on ways to support my son and give him the best life possible.

For more information about Stephanie, The Mindful Mama, you can go to:

W: www.themindfulmama.ca

E: asktrustgrow@gmail.com

Instagram: @the_mindfulmama