Our mission is to help families thrive.
We are a bunch of moms and dads who practice and teach mindfulness, relaxation, and meditation. We believe that mental processes such as awareness, attention, emotion regulation, compassion and positivity are trainable life skills. We blog to help you and your family thrive. Enjoy a happier, healthier life, and connect better with your family and the world!
You can contact us at: christian at blissfulkids dot com
Chris Bergstrom – Blissful Kids, Curator & Blogger
Chris Bergström curates Blissfulkids.com and blogs about mindfulness and parenting.
“Every parent and child deserves a super power. Now you can have it! It’s called mindfulness.” — Chris Bergstrom
He was recently interviewed by Emerson College:
Q: What is your history with mindfulness and meditation — why did you decide to dedicate a large part of your life to these practices?
Mindfulness is a secular life skill. A skill that everyone has the right to learn. Mindfulness helps us to improve attention skills, impulse control, self regulation, and it helps us to nurture positivity, kindness and compassion. What if children had the chance to learn these skills at an early age? How could their lives be different? What would the ripple effect be on a global scale? Imagine that :)
I’ve been practicing and teaching for over ten years. The benefits of the practice are many. I want to share what I’ve learned and help others experience all the goodness that comes with the practice. Here’s a good introduction to the benefits, by the way: Greater Good at Berkley & American Psychological Association.
Regarding children’s mindfulness… We were adopting a few years ago, waiting in line for a child with special needs. The process of adoption can be long in Europe, so I had the chance to study children’s psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I became a bit of a neuroscience geek and discovered mindfulness for children. I figured out that mindfulness could be a great tool to help adopted and special needs children in particular.
To our great surprise, we became pregnant the same month we were to receive our child proposal from abroad, and so we had to cancel the adoption process. I was so impressed with the concept of mindfulness for children that I decided to continue on the path. I studied children’s mindfulness and participated in the “Mindful Educator Essentials” program offered by Mindful Schools.
Q: What’s the typical reaction of a young child (4-7) after practicing mindfulness for the first time? (When I try and imagine young children calming their minds and their bodies, the visual doesn’t come together for me.)
With younger children, you most often have to ask, “Did you like it? How did it feel?” You get answers like: “I feel good,” “I feel happy,” and “It was nice.” Here’s a link to two actual starter lessons, so you can see for yourself what it can look like.
Young children tend to be open minded, and you really don’t have to sell them on the idea. They try, they experience, and then they decide if they like it and if they want to do it again. Teenagers usually want more information, just like adults often do.
Q: Is mindfulness effective for kids with ADD/ADHD (or other attention-deficit issues)?
This is really interesting. I have no personal experience with children who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. I have no medical training and can’t give medical advice, but I can see how it could be useful as mindfulness helps us focus attention and self-regulate. I recently read that “numerous studies of young adults and teens have confirmed that mindfulness strengthens students’ ability to focus; and many classroom teachers have observed that students with ADHD appear to benefit the most” (Mindful Schools, 2016). Here’s an interesting article on the subject about how we could consider a spectrum of “attentional capacity” and offer help in different forms as the condition varies from individual to individual. There are a few good books on ADHD and mindfulness that I’ve been planning to read.
Q: Can you think of one especially poignant example of a success story you’ve had with mindfulness/teaching mindfulness?
My two-year-old son uses deep breathing when he is anxious. He actually notices when he is anxious. Not always, but more often these days. I think it’s inspiring how he’s able to notice his own anxiety and self-soothe — that’s mindfulness.
This happened today… I was really tired and frustrated when I tried to put together a new stroller, and my son was trying to get me to do it faster by being really loud. He was excited, and I wasn’t very mindful. My zen cool failed, and I said something like, “Come on, calm down now.”
I instantly felt sorry for saying it, but he didn’t react negatively. Instead he simply decided to do a round of belly breathing, reminding me to focus and calm down. So, he’s a great teacher even at his young age :)
When I’m not mindful, I might not notice how my mood affects my son. In this case, I should have noticed my own frustration and how it affected him. I should have been the one to calm down in the first place. It was a good lesson.
For me, the most important thing is the even-mindedness and balance (also known as equanimity) that comes with continuous practice. What this means is that you can handle stress with an even mind and be more balanced when things don’t go as planned. You’re basically in a better place to make decisions. You don’t get as reactive and impulsive as you might without the practice. You also bounce back faster when unfortunate things happen. It does not mean you are always even-minded, just that you experience these even-minded moments more often during stressful events.
Q: On the flip side of the above question, can you think of an instance where your teachings fell flat?
Sure, that happens when I’m not that mindful myself, like with the stroller example. It’s good to understand that your audience mirrors your state — in a classroom or at home.
So, for example, if you rush to a class, your car breaks down, a seagull poops on your new shirt, you are really, really late and the pressure finally gets to you. This stress shows when you meet your audience, and they often mirror it. It’s a thing: in psychology there’s this concept called emotional contagion, and people have been crazy about mirror neuron theory lately.
Anyway, another great way to fail is when you don’t connect with your audience. It’s easy to just go through the motions if you do a lesson for the nth time. Or even when you’re super excited about the lesson, and you kind of forget about the audience and their needs.
Teaching is not about you or even the spectacular content you deliver. You have to “feel” the audience, connect with them and really be there for them on their terms.
Said differently, you have to walk the mindful walk to be able to help others — and that’s something I believe most people will learn when they start to teach.
Q: Are there any problems you’ve encountered with the practice? (The stories I’ve read about mindfulness tend to be overwhelmingly positive, and I want to know if there is some conflict within the practice.)
I’ve read about problems that adults have with serious practice, but I haven’t experienced any issues. I think it can be hard to sit with oneself for 30 minutes at first, especially if you have trauma or mental health problems.
Sitting still and listening to your mind is revelatory. It’s a little bit like turning on the light and experiencing your life and mind like they are instead of the way you’d want them to be. If you are in denial, that might pop up. If you are unhappy, you will notice that.
Mindfulness does help you to navigate difficult emotions, but it takes practice and most often a good teacher to learn it from. Mindfulness also helps you to nurture the positive and to overcome negative thoughts — but you have to practice daily.
Continuity of practice can be a big problem.
Mindfulness is a little bit like going to the gym… or brushing your teeth. Mindfulness works only if you remember to practice.
It is work, and there are days when it’s far from easy. Sticking with it and being aware of what you are going through, especially when it’s hard, is the practice.
Noticing that practice is hard today is about being aware… and that is the practice.
It’s easy to trick oneself into thinking, “I’m too busy today, I’ll practice tomorrow.”
Even a minute of practice or three mindful breaths can help you and keep the practice alive. There’s this fun “zen” proverb:
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
And that is exactly how it is :)
For me, it’s a question of sticking with the practice, having a good teacher and learning about yourself even when it’s difficult. The adult version of loving kindness meditation, for example, can be soothing and beautiful, but it can also show you when it’s hard for you to be loving or generous. It can show you the scope of your kindness and compassion.
To be clear, it’s probably good to note here that the practices taught to kids are designed to be light, playful, and age appropriate. You would not teach the same technique to a pre-schooler that you would to a teenager or an adult.
To sum it up, I’d say that with mindfulness practice, you learn about yourself and plant seeds of change. It takes time. Your brain and mind can change with practice. There’s this cool thing in the field of neuroscience called neuroplasticity. What it means is: an old brain can learn new tricks! That means that you can become more kind and generous, more focused and positive, more aware and less controlled by your mental chatter and emotions. And that is a path to more contentment.
Chris Bergstrom is the co-founder of BlissfulKids.com and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator, and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also an executive consultant, and has taught meditation for more than 10 years.