Last Updated by
Long before mindfulness was a buzzword, my father was teaching me mindful strategies, even if he didn’t know it. When I would get overwhelmed as a kid I would get emotional and eventually I would work myself up into hyperventilating. My dad’s go-to strategy to help me work through these episodes was “The Birthday Candle.” He would hold up his pointer finger, ask me to pretend it was a birthday candle and tell me it was my job to blow it out.
The first attempt was pretty weak due to my rapid and shallow breathing but he would encourage me to keep trying, take a big, deep breath and blow that candle out. After several tries I could catch my breath enough to finally extinguish that pretend candle. Every time my dad helped me do this, I was able to focus on my breathing instead of my problem and calm myself down. That process was an act of mindfulness – to stop listening to the noise of the world or your own thoughts or emotions and instead be fully present in the moment.
Even now as an adult, when I get overwhelmed I remember the mindfulness practice that my dad taught me. I walk away from whatever I’m doing for 5 minutes and find a calm quiet space to focus all my energy on taking long, deep breaths. Then I can go back and start again with a fresh outlook.
Kids and parents alike need ways to manage stress and strong emotions—and mindfulness is a great place to start.
Kylie Rymanowicz, Extension Educator
Michigan State University Extension