We sat down (virtually, of course!) with Mackenzie, one of our Mindful Moments facilitators. Keep reading to learn about her role, the Mindful Moments program, and how mindfulness is helping people cope with the stresses and challenges of the pandemic.

Q: Hi Mackenzie! You’re a Child Development Counsellor – can you tell us about your background, and what you love about working with children?

A: I went to Mount Royal University where I received a degree in Child and Youth Care Counselling, and I have now been in this field for almost 10 years. Working with children inspires my inner kid, and makes me more creative and patient on daily basis. Children have so much to teach us about their own unique perspectives of the world and how every opportunity is a learning opportunity.

Q: How would you describe YW’s Mindful Moments program?

A: Mindful Moments is centred on becoming more mindful, connecting with our bodies, differentiating between our thoughts, emotions and actions, as well as developing emotion regulation techniques. Outside of the 8-week program, I deliver Mindful Moments workshops on a variety of topics related to mindfulness, healthy brain development and self-care.

The program is for children ages 8-12 and their parents. We run our virtual groups parallel, which means that parents are in one session, while the children are attending their own session at the same time. The children’s group wraps up a bit earlier, so that the Child Development Counsellor (me!) is able to hop into the parents’ session to share how group was, update them on the home practice, and answer any questions they may have.

Q: What do the children in Mindful Moments like about the program?

A: My children clients often share that they’re excited to come each week to see their friends. The pandemic has made it so difficult for them to have their typical social interactions, so if once a week on Zoom is all they’re getting, they are making the most of it. They’ve also been able to openly discuss the anxiety or worry they feel about the pandemic – this normalization of fears by a group of peers is extremely helpful to their mental health and wellbeing.

Q: What kinds of challenges are you hearing about from people who are entering the program?

A: The pandemic has been very hard on parents, especially those who are wearing multiple hats and acting as teachers, coaches, regulators of technology, etc. So stress levels are quite high. For parents to know that their children have a program to attend each week that keeps them busy for two hours, while learning new skills is helpful.

Q: What are some of the big wins you’re seeing in the program?

A: A big success for me is hearing parents realize and accept that they truly are doing the best they can, given the circumstances. Parents have shared that they’re honoring their bodies more (knowing when they need space or rest), as well as feeling more in control of their emotions and how they respond to the people around them.

Q: How is mindfulness helping program participants cope with the pandemic?

A: This has been such a stressful, challenging time for everyone. Being able to learn the techniques of mindfulness can have tremendous benefits. For both parents and children, it provides the skills to self-regulate – to control their behavior, emotions and thoughts – during a time of stress. It even helps families in their bedtime routines – mindful practices before bed helps to ease the mind and encourage sleep.

To give you your own “mindful moment”, Mackenzie is sharing a quick mindful practice that you can do at home. Press play on the video to have Mackenzie guide you through this 5-4-3-2-1 exercise!

Want to add mindfulness to your mental health toolbox? Click here to register for Mindful Moments!