Stop emailing and start snuggling. Dr. Amy Saltzman doesn’t use those words exactly, but both in her holistic medical practice and her classes on mindfulness, it’s the essence of what she’s trying to convey.
“As a culture, we are so addicted to doing that we’ve forgotten the value of being,” she said in her comfortable Menlo Park office. “We’ve lost the ability to listen to internal rhythms and really care for ourselves.”
Amy could be just like every other stressed out Menlo mom, juggling her duties as wife, mother – her children are at Hillview and Oak Knoll – and doctor/teacher but, by chance, she met Georgina Lindsey during her second year in medical school, an encounter that transformed her life view, which she chronicles on her website. Four years later, she began studying and practicing mindfulness, which she describes as “paying attention to life here and now with kindness and curiosity.”
She has since conducted research on the subject and is regarded as an expert in teaching mindfulness to children in grades K-8. “We have data that shows mindfulness decreases anxiety and increases self-esteem,” she says. “Why not offer stress education to kids in the same way we offer them sex and driver’s ed?”
Given the accomplishment-driven culture in our local communities, what can parents do to at least dial down the nagging voice of “go, go, go?” Amy suggests that there are a couple ways to begin.
How to break free from the go-go culture and parental rat race
“As parents we need to look hard at our habits and the mixed messages we send, ” she says. “In one class, we asked, ‘What is the one thing that your parents do that you’d like them to stop?’ One kid said, ‘I want my Dad to stop texting while driving. The child was scared – texting can wait.
“The other thing parents can do is to become aware and make choices – about both their schedules and their children’s. Before saying ‘yes’ to the next volunteer job or signing up your child for a new activity, stop and ask yourself, ‘Even though this opportunity/activity sounds great, is there really room for it on our family calendar?’
“Finally, it’s important to teach kids how to problem solve. It’s not all about grades, it’s about loving to learn. Kids think beyond what they’ve already been taught. Help them learn the skills of communication, cooperation and compassion.”
Amy’s next course, Mindfulness and Parenting: Finding Grace Amidst the Chaos will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 28. It will be held from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Child and Family Institute at 330 Ravenswood in Menlo Park; the cost is $250 per person or $400 per couple. More information is available on her website, or by calling 650-575-5780.