My grandma friend, Leslie Zinberg, sent me her new book, Grandparenting: Renew, Relive, Rejoice. This book couldn’t be more timely with 52 ways to mindfully connect and grow with your grandkids. I love this book for its clarity in explaining mindfulness and the creative activities to enjoy with our grandchildren.
Authors Leslie Zinberg and Pam Siegel write that “mindfulness has taught us it’s not about spoiling our grandchildren; instead, it’s about showing up and modeling good values. It’s focusing on presence above presents. By being fully present with our grandchildren we will connect on a deeper level, noticing their words, actions and intentions. We’ll have more clarity in understanding their emotions, too.
The book makes mindfulness understandable to grandparents, so we can then teach it to our grandchildren — a little at a time, with simple and fun things to do together, connect, and bring mindfulness into the moment-to-moment experiences of mind, body, and spirit. When we connect in this way with our grandchildren, we can deepen our special bond with them and even more important, show them ways to extend this loving awareness to others, nature, and the community.
What Is Mindfulness
Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, just as it is, without judgment, expectation or outcome. It sounds easy to do, but in fact, it takes patience and practice. The easiest way to be present is to focus on your breathing — our breath is our “friend” and regulator, easily accessible, and always with us.
Mindfulness can be practiced informally or formally — both versions are demonstrated in the book. Formal mindfulness practice involves setting aside a specific amount of time to consciously “go inside” and be aware of what is sensed or felt in the body, using the breath as an anchor. This practice can include a sitting or walking meditation, body scan (closing your eyes and focusing on each part of the body) or yoga session. Now is the perfect time to learn and practice mindfulness if you’re not already doing it. We’re at home and have unstructured time when we can truly benefit from learning how to calm our breathing and quiet our minds.
Informal mindfulness involves finding brief moments in everyday life to be present. Instead of multitasking or spending extended periods on automatic pilot, focus your activity to just one task and do it without distractions. For example, watch a bird in your garden without your smartphone in your hand. Notice the bird’s colors, movement, and actions. Give your full attention to this moment and notice your breathing, inhale and exhale consciously. If your grandchild is with you, explain what you’re doing and have her follow along with you. Then tell each other what you noticed.
Benefits of Mindfulness
By doing these simple activities together, we can teach our grandchildren how to be curious about others, appreciate other people’s differences, and find ways to be more playful together.
The book features 52 moments that fall into nine overlapping principles and form the foundation of mindfulness:
- Beginner’s mind: Seeing things as if for the first time.
- Non-Judging: Learning to be an impartial witness to our own daily experiences.
- Patience: Understanding and accepting that things often unfold in their own time.
- Trust: Believing in our own instincts.
- Non-Striving: Allowing ourselves to “be” without trying to change anything.
- Letting Go: Accepting things as they are without attachment or expectation.
- Kindness: Bringing compassion to ourselves in the moment without self-blame or criticism.
- Acceptance: Coming to terms with what is and seeing things as they really are in the present.
- Curiosity: Connecting with your senses and wanting to discover something new.
The authors asked a variety of grandparents to share their favorite stories about being mindful with their grandchildren. These stories accompany the 52 hands-on activities and games along with thought-provoking quotes, and simple meditations. Here are two examples:
Listening is an invaluable skill that can be developed with practice. When you’re with your grandchildren, pay close attention to what they say and encourage them to do the same with you. At the dinner table, give everyone two minutes to talk about something that happened during their day, without interrupting. Ask the person to their left to repeat what was just said. You’ll be surprised by what you learn.
Thoughts can be scary for our grandchildren. Pushing them away only makes matters worse. By explaining that thoughts are just thoughts, not reality, we can help our grandchildren learn to detach from their worries. To change their relationship with fear and alter their anxiety, practice this exercise using a “worry box.” Ask your grandchild to write down a scary thought or worry on a piece of paper. Talk about what feelings arise. Put the paper in a box and put the box away on a shelf. Whenever another worry comes up. add it to the box. Make a yearly or monthly ceremony of throwing away the worries.
Grandparenting: Renew, Relive, Rejoice is filled with many more delightful and simple activities that you can enjoy with your grandchildren even at a distance on FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. This book is the perfect read for while we’re sheltering in place.