7 Ways to Model Mindfulness + Kindness at Home with New Baby and Siblings
Learning how to be kind starts at home. Mindfulness is one way to learn to be kind and calm within even when things happening on the outside are scary and hard.
Let's face it - toddlers are not known to be particularly patient and calm- especially when a new sibling joins the fold. Yet, it's never too early to teach toddlers these these skills and no better way for a baby to learn than from the big sib they look up to and adore.
It's worth the work to teach your littles early to be mindful and kind to one another - they learn most from what they see and observe at home.
7 ways to model mindfulness + kindness even when hard things like welcoming a new sibling
1. Make your time together Count.
What bothers your little one the most is not having you all to themselves. Make the time you have with your little one count - it's about quality more than quantity. Creating special one-on-one time at designated time can help- babies and toddlers thrive on consistency. This is not always easy with a life and new baby at home - so be spontaneous too. If you notice a free ten minute window, get on the floor and play with them. Put your phone down and really be with them. Ten quality minutes of you really being present with them engaging in something that is fun for them outweighs 60 minutes if you're only half there, on your phone, thinking about something else. They feel it.
Keep in mind that the concept of sharing is actually foreign for a child under three. This is why a child of that age may be having a particularly hard time. Giving them bursts of attention whenever possible will help them regulate better, act out less, and overall lessen the meltdowns.
2. They are having a hard time, not giving you a hard time
One component of mindfulness is empathy. When your child is acting up it is because they are having a hard time, not trying to give you a hard time. Matching their frustration just makes things worse. Take a mindful breath in these moments. Get out of your head because toddlers are not logical and just be with them as they feel their big emotions. Being a calm gentle presence helps them move through hard things. You are teaching them to breathe, return to heart center, and move through tough moments with greater ease.
You are treating them as you would want to be treated and they soon will treat others - like their baby sibling - as they have been treated. Not every time - they'll not show up as their best just as we don't sometimes - but we can always reset and return to that love and calm. This is the mindful work that helps you and them be better, hurt less, and connect more.
3. Create your space mindfully
Children play much better in a space that is not super cluttered and everything has a place. Outer chaos can lead to inner chaos. Develop positive rituals such as cleaning up their space after play time and/or end of the night. A good practice is to rotate toys in and out. Setting a new toy out always captivates a toddler - even if its not actually new but just been away for a month or so. Model putting things away when done, doing a nightly clean sweep, and setting up fresh toys at the start of the week or day as you can to keep them busy and engaged.
4. Encourage Being a helper
Children love to be helpful. Create little jobs for them that are age appropriate. Positively reinforce them doing 'their work' and whenever they help with their sibling, praise them for being a good helper. Having their work may be a good distraction when they are doing something negative that you want them to divert them for. Use that short attention span to your advantage!
You can even in bring in a simple reward chart - maybe just earning stars whenever you see positive, helpful behavior. Make it easy - pointing it out positive behavior in the moment right after they do it. You can have a reward of a special activity together - creating that quality time - with they've earned their stars.
5. How do we make it fun
It feels good when people think you are fun. Whenever a sibling does something that makes their sib laugh or sets up a game that is fun, encourage it. You an say things like "look how much your sib enjoys seeing you do that" or "you are a lot of fun when you play that way" or "you are making your sibling laugh." Of course this can easily lead into too much silly. So you can divert if it gets that way and continue to positively reinforce a good silly not the 'over the top silly' that is a hallmark of toddlers.
6. Practice being a leader
There are many ways to practice being a leader within the sibling relationship. Point out whenever a sib leads a game in a positive way or models a positive way to play or talk or be. Also, give them chances to be a leader by asking them to set up a fun play area for their sib or lead the line, open the door etc. As they get older this can continue, pointing out when your child handles conflict well or is responsible for doing helpful chores like setting table when you make dinner or watering plants and pointing out how special it is to do these 'big kid' things that baby can't do.
. Cooperation Over Competition
A little healthy competition can be good but it can quickly go sour, especially among siblings. Be sure to positively reinforce and reward when you see cooperation and working together. Try not to compare them - especially since they will often be at different places developmentally. So always look at them independently and compare each one with where they are now to where they once were as opposed to how they compare to their sibling.
Like any skill, being mindful is learned. While love is our essence, we always lose sight of it at times. It's our work to keep returning to our heart center, to love. We have to teach our children how to do it too. Mindfulness is one pathway toward returning to that love within that will help you and your household be more present, connected, aware and loving with one another and the outside world.
Mindfulness with babies is a thing, learn 4 simple ways to get started with mindfulness with your baby.