Mark Bertin

Mark Bertin, MD, is a developmental pediatrician and author. His previous books, Mindful Parenting for ADHD and The Family ADHD Solution, integrate mindfulness with other evidence-based ADHD care. He is also a contributing author for the book Teaching Mindfulness Skills to Kids and Teens. Dr. Bertin is a faculty member at New York Medical College and the Windward Teacher Training Institute, and is on the advisory boards for the nonprofit organizations Common Sense Media and Reach Out and Read. His blog is available through HuffPost, Mindful magazine, Mindful.org, and Psychology Today. For more information, please visit his website at developmentaldoctor.com.

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4 Ways to Value and Build More Joy Into This Holiday S...

The holiday season sometimes feel like brief moments of joy thrown together with an awful lot of unsettled intensity. Attending to those easier times doesn’t mean we should ignore the unpleasant, but we can aim to not get so caught up in it. It is often expectations, anxieties, and perfectionism that amp up our holiday experience. Focusing on what we value and giving those times our most direct attention, we end up with a happier and more restorative holiday season.

 

Give happier moments your full attention, as you would a meditation

Whenever you catch yourself distracted from a moment of ease, come back. That could be through spending a few minutes alone, or with a favorite person or pet. It could mean taking in a party while the room feels full of connection and excitement. Or savoring a favorite food. Notice when you’re distracted by future planning, problem solving, or past conflicts, and in an unforced way, immerse yourself in a joyful moment.

Let go of expectations and comparison

Don’t ‘should’ on your holidays by thinking they should be better or resemble that family’s holidays or resemble holidays from ten years ago. These holidays will never, by definition, be the same as any other. If something truly has you down, even that gets complicated by ‘should’—like thinking you should be joyful when you’re not. Ever find yourself doing something because you should, instead of wanting or needing to? Whenever you notice ‘should-ing,’ see if you can note the thoughts and come back to whatever you feel best.

Let go of perfection

Check in with what you value and want to give to others. Ease, connection, what most comes to mind? Let go of stories about what must unfold in some precise way to meet your holiday standard. Wishes are one thing (I hope we’re all happy and healthy), perfection is unlikely (everyone better get along this year for once).

Sustain yourself

Let go, when you choose (and without hassling yourself), of how you typically live while keeping up with whatever keeps you strong. How little sleep and exercise are okay before you implode emotionally? How much indulging before you feel miserable the next day and maybe one after that? How much stress relates to getting physically run down? And then, always remember that practicing gratitude and giving to others may be one of the most valuable, sustaining choices we have. Happy holidays!

 

Mark Bertin is a pediatrician, author, professor, and mindfulness teacher specializing in neurodevelopmental behavioral pediatrics. He is the author of How Children Thrive: The Practical Science of Raising Independent, Resilient, and Happy Kids, a regular contributor to Mindful.org, HuffPost, and Psychology Today. Dr. Bertin resides in Pleasantville, New York. For more, visit developmentaldoctor.com.

 

The community here at Sounds True wishes you a lovely holiday season! We are happy to collaborate with some of our Sounds True authors to offer you wisdom and practices as we move into this time together; please enjoy this blog series for your holiday season. 

To help encourage you and your loved ones to explore new possibilities this holiday season, we’re offering 40% off nearly all of our programs, books, and courses sitewide. May you find the wisdom to light your way. 

EXPLORE NOW

 

 

Mindful Kids in Context

 

Mindful eating, mindful burgers, mindful sex . . . pretty much everything is mindful lately. Paying attention has value, but what’s the goal of all that mindfulness?

Defining mindfulness exactly is like trying to define psychology or exercise in one line; you can do it, but it never quite captures everything. To summarize, mindfulness means aiming to be more aware of our immediate experience, with less reactive habit. Even that language may feel abstract to the average parent or child trying to find some peace and happiness. More than any single definition, what matters most is that there’s an intention. We spend an awful lot of our lives reacting to things we like or dislike in ways that aren’t always useful. When we break patterns and handle the uncertainty of life more easily, that’s beneficial. However you define it, mindfulness means living with less mindless habit and more ability to manage the fact that life is awfully hard sometimes.

So what does mindfulness with kids mean? Another way of framing mindfulness is as a group of mental traits. It’s not that anything specifically gets fixed by a practice of mindfulness; it’s guiding children toward long-term skills that make life easier. We teach children to become more attentive, less reactive, more compassionate, and resilient. From that perspective, mindfulness is a way to build life management abilities, but far from the only one. We offer children tools to handle the challenging road ahead through any means that fit.

When we say that mindfulness means “paying attention to what we’re doing,” we transfer this to our children by paying more attention to them when we’re together. “Staying calm under pressure” means taking a few breaths and not blowing a gasket when homework falls apart. When we say to treat others with compassion, that starts with how we speak to the frazzled guy at the airport dealing with our flight cancellation. Acknowledging honestly and openly that no one is perfect, we also recognize that we won’t stick to our own intentions all the time. We make mistakes and learn from them and keep going. Drawing our children into that part of life teaches them something too.

When it comes to teaching mindfulness, focus on the skills you want your children to develop. That matters more than whether they commit to a “mindfulness practice.” We build resilience by developing EF (Executive Function) and attention, emotional awareness, self-confidence, self-compassion, positive relationships, and all the rest that comes from being raised in a mindful, aware household. That doesn’t mean specifically meditating, but it does mean emphasizing a balanced lifestyle.

Mindfulness implies living with clarity in a certain way. We guide kids to pay attention every way we can — by taking moments to pause and look at a sea shell or by prioritizing activities that build attention (like reading, chess, and board games) over those that disrupt attention (excessive screen time). We discuss emotions and describe our own emotions. We live compassionately, read books that reflect other people’s perspectives, and generally immerse kids in compassion, while gradually considering if they’re ready for a compassion-based mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness is a tool kit for a different way of living, one that provides kids skills to manage life on their own one day. The good news is, kids don’t even have to practice it themselves to get there. They learn from watching us and from the overall way they live themselves. Of course, they eventually can learn from their own practice of mindfulness too. As you practice yourself, you’ll know exactly how to encourage your children to join you (links to books supporting mindfulness in kids can be found at howchildrenthrive.com). But it’s the big picture of how they are raised that counts most.

Consider This:

Imagine yourself from your child’s point of view. How would your child describe you to a friend? What’s fun and easy about you, what are your strengths, and what areas might you want to change?

 

Excerpted from How Children Thrive: The Practical Science of Raising Independent, Resilient, and Happy Kids.

 

 

Mark Bertin, MD, is a bestselling author who specializes in integrating mindfulness with other evidence-based neurodevelopmental care. His previous books include Mindful Parenting for ADHD and The Family ADHD Solution.

 

 

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Mark Bertin: How Children Thrive and the Developmental...

Dr. Mark Bertin is a pediatrician, mindfulness teacher, and the author of regular articles for Mindful.org, Huffpost, and Psychology Today. With Sounds True, he has published How Children Thrive: The Practical Science of Raising Independent, Resilient, and Happy Kids. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Mark discuss his research on executive functioning—those mental processes that allow us to organize and responsibly manage our immediate environment—and how this develops in children. Drawing from his extensive work, Mark explains the healthy stages of executive function development and why a supportive, open-minded, and fun-promoting environment is what kids actually need to thrive. They talk about Mark’s previous work with childhood ADHD and how it led to his current focus, as well as why attention disorders can be interpreted as delays in executive function development. Finally, Mark and Tami speak on setting boundaries around technology use and how introducing mindfulness practices early in childhood leads to healthier, happier lives down the road. (64 minutes)

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