24 October 2023

What does "Mindful Parenting" look like, and how can we introduce more fun and presence in family life? Breathworks Mindfulness Teacher, Paula Doran, shares her story of working with pain, burnout and neurodiversity, as well as her tried-and-tested mindfulness games and activities for young children. 


I discovered mindfulness over a decade ago, when working as a midwife in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Alongside work, I was also raising a family and studying to gain my Masters in counselling . I only dipped my toe in the water at that time, as I was “too busy” to be mindful. 

However, over time, the cumulative impact of stress became more apparent on my health.  Poor sleep, weight gain, high blood pressure, thyroid issues, worsening mental health and chronic lower back pain crept in.  

I became pregnant with my third child in 2015, just after I had changed my career from midwifery to work as a sexual trauma therapist. It was during this transitional time that I was diagnosed with symphysis pubic dysfunction and later fibromyalgia (a chronic pain condition).

In previous pregnancies, I had always struggled to cope with post-surgical pain as I had to have caesarean births. This had impacted my initial bonding experience with my children, and I believe led to postnatal depression. This time I wanted it to be different. I wanted to be able to proactively improve my relationship with pain and stress to better manage this experience.

Breathworks Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Paula Doran with family


That's where I discovered Breathworks' 8-week mindfulness courses. Following the birth, I began with the Mindfulness for Health course. Better able to cope with the pain through the practices I learned, mu bonding experience with my son improved. I was more present and accepting of where I found myself. I still needed pain relief but psychologically my experience was much more positive. 

The training helped me in many ways. I noticed the reality of the pace of life I was living, the previous impact of trauma on my body and the regular reactive state of mind I would be in that often drove a loss of focus. In those first months, as I came back to my body, I couldn’t sit still. My energy was unbalanced. I felt reactive, in pain, and unhappy.  Most strikingly, I was now aware that I hadn’t been truly present with my kids. There was always something else on my mind.

As a result of the Mindfulness for Health course, I recognised I was putting myself under a lot of pressure. This in turn was adding to deteriorating health, creating a vicious circle of increased stress, worsening health, more stress, and so on. I learnt a lot about compassionate acceptance in the Health course, and this was life changing for me.  So as a gift to myself, I decided to follow-up with the Mindfulness for Stress course as soon as I could.

MINDFULNESS Teacher Training

I wanted to carry on learning and sharing practice with others. Embarking on both the courses led to my investing in the Teacher Training Pathway, which helped me to deepen my practice and I gained my accreditation to teach in 2018.

The same year I was accredited, my youngest son was diagnosed with autism.  His speech, language and learning were - and still are - very delayed. Our usual parenting style was turned on its head.  As a family, we now had to rely on building compassionate connection, patience, and learning new ways to communicate and play. I am so glad I had this training experience as I also know it helped us as a family navigate his diagnosis with less fear and more compassion toward his experience.


The moment I gave myself permission to take time for me, family life changed for the better. I recall going on a Breathworks meditation retreat. The change of pace and silences were confronting at first, and I struggled to adjust. Over the week I was gradually able to change gears and came down from my adrenaline-fuelled state.

However, when I arrived home, I was met by an overwhelming tsunami of noise. I had changed on the retreat, but life at home hadn’t. I felt the familiar anxiety and stress levels hit as I walked in the door and had to take a day to recalibrate. The pace of our family life had to change. 

Paula Doran
Pictured above: My son meditating on a boat trip

Mindfulness for the Family

After I had completed my training and the retreat, I led an 8-week Mindfulness for Stress practice course to complete my accreditation. My husband and older sons joined me as participants and the impact on our home life was palpable. We carved out times when tech would be off so we could practice together. Our house became calmer, and we started to do things like look up at the clouds, go for walks, and even started an allotment. We became more compassionate to one another and less demanding.

My teenager shared that he felt mindfulness had helped him slow down his thinking process when confronted with new situations, so he could be more present and worry less about outcomes. That was a win for me. As a parent I also understood how important it was to have sustainable and supportive shared practice that could continue through the life cycle. After all, our children grow up. 


Support for Mindful ParentsBreathworks Mindfulness Teacher, Stanislava Try, with her family leaning against a rock overseeing a beautiful English countryside

After seeing the benefits of practising mindfulness with family in my own life, I was motivated to take this experience forward to help others. I found a kindred spirit in the Breathworks community, where I met Stani (pictured right), who was a fellow parent of neurodiverse children.

Together, we launched a Mindful Parenting group within the Breathworks Community of Practice, a free online mindfulness platform that I'd really encourage you to join. The group provides a space for open and honest conversations, and ideas around how we can bring our mindfulness practice into our family lives.

So how can mindfulness work for children?

It must start with the parent. That doesn’t mean never getting distracted, losing your temper or having down days. It means if you can set yourself the intention to bring a mindful, compassionate attitude into your daily life, then there is opportunity for your child to do it too. 

Here’s a few fun mindfulness games and activities for kids that Stani and I have found enjoyable. Why not have a go at introducing some to your family?

How to practice mindfulness with your children:

1. Be a Sense Detective 
A circle with five segments labelled with the five senses and a magnifying glass in the middle

  • Draw a circle with six pie segments. 

  • Label each segment with a sense you and your child connect with (e.g. smell, touch).

  • Take a few minutes together to explore your space and notice things that you like to look at, listen to, like the feel of, smell of, and notice in your body.

  • You can take it further by encouraging them to notice what they don’t like the feel of first, then seek out the things they do.

  • You can of course adapt this exercises to the senses available to your child. 

2. Take Five

If you're short for time or your child feels panicky, here is an alternative to the exercise above. If possible, encourage your child to move whilst they do this.


  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can touch
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste.

To 'level up', you could also incoperate colours, e.g. 5 things you see that are green and so on. (My youngest found some yellow flowers and had lots of fun wearing them!)

Teddy bear sat on grass looking out

3. Create a breathing buddy 

  • Lie down and place a teddy, balloon or other favoured object on your tummy.

  • Simply watch the breathing buddy rise and fall with the breath.

  • You can make it fun by seeing who can keep it on their belly the longest or who can make it fall off by changing the breath, before returning to the natural rhythm.

4. Magic Bubble Ride
Bubbles in a blue sky with clouds

  • Sit and imagine you are in a bubble; you can breathe and feel warm and safe.

  • Noticing your body on the ground.

  • Imagine how it feels to be in your bubble. Does it have a colour? A smell? A sound?

  • Invite gentle movement with the breath whilst in your bubble, swaying gently. Try not to pop your bubble (yet).

  • You can go further by inviting a journey in the bubble, supporting the child to imagine this for themselves or use a picture to support this visual.

  • When it’s time to land, invite them to pop their bubble or blow the bubble away. 

5. Shake off the sillies

Identify a difficult thought, such as “nobody likes me,” etc. Then shake it off by starting to move your body and wriggle your arms and legs vigorously or put some music on and dance it off.

6. Draw the feeling
A white blank gingerbread person with colours and shapes representing feelings

If your child is struggling with a difficult feeling, invite them to explore it with kindness and creativity. What would it look like? Where does this feeling live in the body?

You could also draw a gingerbread jigsaw person and fill in the pieces with different feelings and thoughts they are having.

It is important for children to see that feelings are just a part of their experience, and this changes moment by moment. You could even compare drawings across a period of time.

7. Explore the rainbow
A beautiful colourful pattern where skittles have been soaked with hot water

  • Put your skittles in whatever pattern you want in a circle, ideally on a white plate.

  • The adult pours hot water directly into the middle of the circle, just enough to touch the skittles but not drown them and wait for the patterns.

  • The practice is to notice the colours diffuse out of the skittles, notice if there is a smell when this happens as well. Can you become aware of the sensations in your body as the colours melt ? Perhaps there is a mouth watering, awareness of hunger or wanting to eat one?

  • Now take a spoon and play with the colours, blend one or two together and see what happens. Can you make more colours? Do you notice a different scent? At the end, if you want, you can eat them.

8. Plate Painting & Patterns
Paper plates with paint patterns on

  • Get out any paints, a few paper plates, and a safe area for mess!
  • Begin to mix the paints up on the plates with your hands.

  • Explore the feeling of the paint. Is it squishy and cold?

  • Watching the colours mix up and name new ones.

  • Used both ends of a paint brush to see what patterns can be made, watching the paint move into different shapes

The best way we can bring mindfulness into our childrens' lives is by modelling it ourselves.

If, like Paula, you would like to learn to resource yourself with the skills and tools that can help you to better manage stress, pain, and illness so that you can be more present and less reactive with your child, you may be interested in our 8-week mindfulness courses: Mindfulness for Health and Mindfulness for Stress.

This blog was authored by Breathworks Mindfulness Teachers, Paula Doran & Stanislava Try. Join Paula and Stani in the Mindful Parenting group via our free Community of Practice to continue the conversation and share your own ideas and experiences. You can also contact Paula & Stani directly via the links below:

Paula Doran: https://andbreathe.co.uk
Stanislava Try: http://familyheadspace.co.uk/