• Dr. Cathy Schaefer, Ph.D

COVID-19: Family Mindfulness Techniques For Stressful Times

Updated: Jun 26



Mindfulness. It’s a buzz word that you’ve heard thrown around for the past couple of years, but what does it really mean and should you be doing it? Is it actually helpful or is it another trend that will eventually pass? 


The short answer is that mindfulness is exactly what you need to be doing right now. These articles from Forbes, Harvard, and Yale’s Child Mind show the research on its benefits. The common thread within those articles is that mindfulness helps to improve focus/concentration, increase emotional regulation, and reduce anxiety. I don’t know about you, but in my house, all of those skills are definitely needed right now!


Mindfulness is bringing your focus into the present moment, without judgment. This means NO multitasking. We all do it: eating a meal while checking our phones or answering an email while listening to the TV. It’s easy to say, but hard to do. In this day and age, our minds are frequently jumping either to the past, in which we are grieving for the lives we have left behind, or we are thinking about the future, worrying about how long this will last and what the world will look like when it’s done. 


Once or twice a day, take a few minutes to ground yourself in the present moment. Start off with one short activity a day and as you become more comfortable with it, you’ll eventually be able to extend the time longer. Here are a couple of family-friendly favorites from the CARE-LA staff: 

  • 3-2-1 Mindful walks: Leave the phones behind on your family walk and notice all that is going on around you. Everyone can work together to find 3 things you can see, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can smell. 

  • Color walks: You can do this one inside or outside. As you walk, choose items you see and debate the exact color of the item (i.e., sky blue vs indigo). Then use google to see who was correct. This is a great activity for teaching kids the subtleties of color, but they need to have some basics of color in order to do this. 

  • Mindful Smells: Each family member can take turns going around the house or garden and collecting several fragrant items (i.e., herbs, flowers, lemons, oranges). The other family members will be blindfolded and try to guess what they are smelling. 

  • Shape search game: A family member chooses a shape and then looks around the room and writes down everything that matches the shape within a minute. You can make it competitive by seeing which family member gets the most shapes.

  • Gratitude journal: This can either be done as a journal activity or a discussion at the dinner table. Think about one moment that day you are grateful for or you enjoyed doing. 

  • 10-1 grounding: This is another activity that can be completed in a journal. Go through and identify: 10 things that you are thinking (it can be words, memories, judgements or pictures in your head, etc.), 9 things you feel (emotions and physical sensations), 8 positive things you remember from last year, 7 things you are thankful for, 6 things you are proud of, 5 things you see, 4 things you touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. 

  • Coloring books: When was the last time you sat down with a coloring book? If you don’t have one, there are many pictures available online that you can print out. As a practice of mindfulness, color a picture without judgement of whether it’s beautiful or perfectly color coordinated. Instead, focus on the strokes you are making and the way the crayon or pencil feels as you bring it across the paper.

  • Mindful Faces: This exercise is meant to redirect the mind with a creative, treasure hunt-like search for faces in everyday objects, while alleviating anxiety and allowing the present moment to come to the forefront of your thoughts. It is also another great activity to do on walks. Check out our mindful faces page for past submissions. 

  • Meditation apps or videos: Mindfulness is a difficult skill to develop when it’s your first time, and so if you are like me, you need someone to talk you through it until you are more comfortable with doing it on your own. Many apps have dropped subscription fees for the month, otherwise, there are many videos available on Youtube. Click here for meditation apps recommended for children. 

  • Yoga: It’s time to dust off that rolled-up yoga mat in your closet and give it another try. Corepower Yoga and Lululemon are just two of the companies that are offering free streaming classes. For the kids, Cosmic Kids Yoga is an engaging way to involve them as well.



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