Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

A girl practices mindfulness as she takes in the environment with all her senses

One form of mindfulness: Taking in the environment around you with all of our senses.

A free scavenger hunt using all your senses (EbSpanish)

Registration deadline is June 8th at noon for the June 10th Scavenger Hunt at Camp Long in Spanish.

Ballard Pediatrician Sarah Bergman Lewis’ definition of mindfulness is a paraphrase of mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat Zinn’s definition: “It’s the practice of noticing what is happening in the present moment and responding without judgment.”

However you define it, there is no question that learning meditation or mindful focus is simple and fun and will help kids and parents reduce anxiety and reactivity and strengthen resiliency. 

Mindfulness and Compassion Program

Bergman is one of the facilitators in the Mindfulness and Compassion Program offered by Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic . The clinic makes it very easy for parents or whole families to try mediation out. Just sign up and show up online to give it a try. 

Promoting collective well-being

The program aims to promote individual, family, and collective well-being. Mindfulness and compassion techniques can help parents and kids face challenges with a cool head and help them cope with stressful times. Practicing together with other parents and families also builds community.

“Our program was started by a group of parents of children with disabilities and complex health challenges who recognized a need for mindfulness within their own community but did not see a model that felt accessible,” says Bergman Lewis, a pediatrician and mindfulness facilitator. “This group of mothers created the program that they wish they had had themselves.” Today, program developers and leaders come from the communities served by the clinic, including parents of children with disabilities and Black, Latinx, and Somali communities.

Community-led, culturally relevant

Most importantly, practices shared by program facilitators are “culturally relevant, trauma-sensitive, healing-centered,” and aimed at developing resilience.

“All of our facilitators are parents from the community,” stresses Tamiko Nietering, who coordinates the program at Odessa Brown. “Some of them are parents who’ve been participants in our classes in the past and are committed to spreading mindfulness and compassion in order to better support one another. It’s important for our team to represent the diverse and rich communities that we serve to hold culturally relevant spaces. 

“We value the life experiences and wisdom that our community members have and grow together in this work,” says Nietering. “This also helps in removing historical barriers that often exist in teaching mindfulness.”

Practicing attention

What does practicing mindfulness look like? Here are four practices suggested by the Kabot-Zinn and others:

  • Use your full attention. Experience where you are with all of your senses. For example, while walking in a park, take time to deeply notice your surroundings. That means not just taking in what you see, but what you hear, smell, taste, and can touch.
  • Follow your breath. When you have negative thoughts, sit down, take a deep breath, and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. 
  • Openness. Intentionally bring an open, accepting, and discerning attention to everything you do. 
  • Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself the way you would treat a beloved relative, good friend, or animal.
  • Follow your breath. When you have negative thoughts, sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. 

More structured mindfulness exercises include full body scans, timed sitting meditation or walking meditation. During these 10- to 30-minute practices, the attention is focused slowly and deliberately on each part of the body (body scan), breathing (meditation), or the sensations or sounds of walking (walking meditation).

Join a free class

The Mindfulness and Compassion Program offers two class options: free weekly online (Zoom) drop-in classes and 6-week mindfulness courses. Classes are currently offered in English, Somali, and Spanish, although the program may expand to other languages. All classes include at least two mindfulness practices followed by group sharing. They are open to all ages. No experience with mindfulness is needed, and no registration is required. 

Classes in English are held Wednesdays from 8-9 p.m. Log into Zoom using the Zoom Meeting ID 5295971494. Or attend by phone by calling 346-248-7799.

Classes in Somali meet online on the last Friday of the month from 8 to 9 p.m. To get the Zoom information for the Somali class, email mindfulness@seattlechildrens.org.

Black Community program and Latinx Community programs both offer drop-in classes as well as 6-week courses. Other classes are designed specifically for families with children with intellectual or developmental disabilities, medical complexities, and children ages 0 – 5. Visit the Mindfulness and Compassion Program webpage or email mindfulness@seattlechildrens.org to learn about these specific community programs.

Just show up

“Drop-in sessions are a great way to try out our programs,” says Bergman Lewis. “No need to sign up in advance or have previous experience with mindfulness. We start with a quick check-in, and then two facilitators will each share a short practice. We talk about our experiences after each strategy. Practices may include mindful movement, breathing, or guided imagery.

For more information about Mindfulness and Compassion Program classes or events, call 206-833-5967 or email mindfulness@seattlechildrens.org.

More at Seattle’s Child:

Finding calm in mindfulness classes

Unmasking anxiety: Resources for families

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.