How Mindfulness Can Help You & Your Child During COVID-19

Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word in conversations around how to deal with the stress of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the associated changes in routine and uncertainty regarding when things will get back to normal. This very important practice has also started to make its way into educational curricula globally.

We spoke to Nan Lutz, mindfulness coach and Mindfulness Africa Director, to find out exactly what mindfulness is, and how it can be utilized to help parents and their children cope.


What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is something that we often do naturally. It’s about being in the present moment, and paying attention to what we’re doing. In essence it’s “stop and smell the roses”, to count to 10 or take 3 deep breaths. It’s not the addiction to the busyness and distraction, to the daily grind of our pre-coronavirus day-to-day lifestyles. By being mindful, we bring an attitude of presence and understanding of who we are and how we show up in our own being. Kindness and compassion are a really important part of this – being kind and compassionate to both others, and to ourselves. 


How can mindfulness help in our current situation?

When we’re in a prolonged state of anxiety, or facing a situation that stresses us or makes us fearful, we revert to our “lizard brain”, the primal or reptilian part of our brain that’s all about having lunch, or being lunch. This is a default, survival response, and it’s why we have a negative bias as humans. This is also known as “fight or flight” mode. Our brains are wired to perceive both physical and imagined threats, and respond by preparing us to flee or fight – sending blood to our extremities, away from our brains that can rationalize that we aren’t actually about to be eaten. This response is designed to help us survive, by releasing adrenaline and cortisol, but we don’t have the physical exertion to release these hormones, like a zebra running away from a lion would. 

One way around this anxiety response is mindfulness. You can use mindfulness to develop awareness of the situation, and bring kindness and compassion to yourself to balance that fear response. In this way, we’re able to make more skillful decisions and cope better with stress. 


What are some techniques that parents can use with their kids to be more mindful?

  1. Create a routine

    • Create a new routine with your child, and make sure this is one that’s helpful for both you and your child in terms of workload and support
    • Don’t try to include an 8-hour schoolday in this routine
  2. Explore with kindly curiosity

    • Take the time to notice the fears surrounding juggling your work and your child’s school work, and bring awareness to those fears with kind curiosity
    • This means exploring your fears and anxieties without judgement or the need to immediately do something about them – let your feelings just exist
  3. Change your attitude

    • Children will model your attitude – change your frame of mind from “this is a disaster” to “I will overcome this” or “this has been done before” or “I can do this”
    • View mindfulness as learning, and allow it to take up some space in your child’s “school day”
    • Make a choice to show up and be present with your children, giving them your undivided attention for a period each day to create that soothing connection
  4. Be kind to yourself

    • Make time to fill your own tank, by doing things that bring you energy and fulfillment
    • Don’t stress about finding more time in your day for mindfulness. Bring it into your child’s play, or be mindful when you are having a relaxing bath or shower
    • Practice being kind instead of criticizing yourself. This will help soothe your nervous system
  5. Practice gratitude

    • Set a time in the day to write down something you’re grateful for, and place it into a “gratitude jar”
    • At bedtime, ask your children what happened today that went well, or that they are grateful for. You can also ask what they’re looking forward to tomorrow, expanding their mind and learning ability
    • Write down 3 things that you’re grateful for in a daily gratitude journal
    • If you’re religious, use your daily prayer ritual to practice gratitude
  6. Spend time with pets

    • Stroking a pet’s fur will introduce a new texture sensation that can help bring you out of a state of fear. This can also work with soft toys
    • A dog’s facial geometry is comforting to people. Stare into a dog’s eyes to get your brain to release oxytocin, the love & connection hormone
  7. Mindful breathing

    • When in a stressful situation, take a moment to take 3 deep breaths, focusing on the inhale and the exhale
    • Use a breathing buddy with your child – a soft toy or pillow that can be placed on their stomach as they take 3 deep belly breaths, or practice gentle breathing. Have them focus on their breathing buddy as it rocks with their breathing
    • Stop and take 10 breaths – this action of pausing can interrupt negativity and fear
  8. Movement

    • Take a walk around the garden or house, taking time to notice things like a flower or insect using all your senses
    • Dance around the room with your child
    • Do mindful stretching when you wake up in the morning
  9. Garden together

    • Gardening enables you to care for something outside of yourself
    • If you don’t have a garden to plant some seeds in, use carrot tops, potatoes or beans in a jar on your windowsill


Practical ideas for parents to help kids in a panic situation

Sometimes we, or our kids, get into a state of panic or anxiety that’s difficult to break out of. Here are Nan’s top tips to help bring you or your kids back into a more present state:

  1. Take 3 deep breaths, focusing on your breathing
  2. Stroke materials with different textures, to soothe and realign the brain. If you or your child are particularly anxious, carry something with a soft texture with you in the car or your bag
  3. Use your senses to notice things around you: Use 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 to notice:
    • 5 things that you can SEE 
    • 4 things that you can TOUCH
    • 3 things that you can HEAR
    • 2 things that you can SMELL
    • 1 thing that you can TASTE

If you’d like more information on mindfulness, you can go to or to for information on online mindfulness courses.

This article first appeared on