You can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about mindfulness; it is literally everywhere and this comes as no surprise when you learn of the benefits of living a mindful life and practicing mindfulness meditation. As adults, it is relatively simple for us to understand the concept of practicing mindfulness but for a child, this can feel a little confusing.
That being said, there is a way that you can simplify the idea and help kids to understand the benefits of mindfulness in full. One of the good things is that teaching mindfulness to children isn’t as difficult as you might think. What’s more, as you encourage your child to take part in mindfulness exercises, this will help them to develop positive habits in their adult life.
If you have a young son or daughter and you want to start helping them to develop an understanding of mindfulness, this post will explain everything you need to know. In this post, we will also be looking at how mindfulness activities can help your children throughout their life.
How Do I Teach My Children Mindfulness
In order to teach mindfulness to kids, we have to be aware of what it is ourselves. In the simplest terms mindfulness is paying attention to what is going on in the present moment. Many people do this through a meditative mindfulness practice but it can also be done in several other ways.
When we need to teach mindfulness to kids, one of the first things that we must remember is that children may not understand some of the complex language often used in the media when discussing mindfulness between adults.
It’s important to keep it simple. Telling children that mindfulness is about concentrating on what is happening right now, is a great way to start. You can explain to kids that when we practice mindfulness, this is the opposite to rushing but instead, we slow down and pay attention to the things that are happening around us.
Children learn by example and so it is wise, as a parent, to practice mindfulness in your every day life; this is an easy way to get kids used to this practice. You can also explain to them that paying attention to what is happening around you can be something that you purposely focus on, particularly when doing mindfulness work for a specific goal like improving your focus at school or staying calm under stress. However, mindfulness can also be something that kids can experience at random.
If you are at school, placing your focus on drawing a picture of a flower that the teacher has placed on your desk, you have blocked out everything else that is going on in the room and your mind is only concentrating on being in the present moment with the drawing, this is mindfulness.
You should also explain to your kids that mindfulness is not something that you can just learn in a day. As we pay attention to our surroundings, we will develop our mindfulness skills and become better.
As you practice mindfulness this way, you will notice how mindfulness then happens naturally in situations when we might need it. For example, a stressful experience can be helped by mindfulness and the more we pay attention to our surroundings, the more it will happen without us forcing it.
How Do You Explain Meditation To A Child?
One great way to teach mindfulness to kids is through meditation, but this is another thing that might seem alien to children, despite it being something that can have enormous positive effects on their emotional and physical well being.
Meditation is a mind-body mindfulness practice that involves a calm mind, feeling comfortable and being able to focus the mind. This is something that children may not find easy but one of the best ways to teach this mindfulness exercise to children to to lead by example. Older children may understand a verbal explanation of meditation but those in the younger age group may need to see you doing it.
At this age, kids will mimic your behaviour so including meditating in normal family life is a great idea. Allow your son or daughter to join in and slowly, you can help them to develop their own mindfulness meditation practice.
How To Do Mindfulness With Kids
An important factor when looking at the topic of mindfulness for children is to consider that your child may not want to engage in mindfulness for more than a few minutes at a time, and that is OK.
As we have discussed, this positive growth mindset will take time but there are many resources to help you. You might search for a mindfulness app which will detail many ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your kids day. There are also several activities online such as kids 1 minutes mindfulness meditations, particularly on sites like YouTube. Not only are these fun but they will also hold the child’s attention.
But you can do mindfulness without this. Find a quiet place where you and your child won’t be disturbed. Breathing exercises are a great thing to start with.
Get your kid to to sit in a comfortable position and focus on their breathing. Ask them to feel how their belly rises and falls each time they breathe. You might ask them to notice any sensations in their body or emotions they feel. Are they happy? Sad? Angry?
If your child’s attention moves to another thing, like what they will have for dinner, their favourite TV show or anything else, ask them to gently return their focus to their breathing. This can be difficult for young kids so try to make it fun. Ask them questions:
Do you feel the air tickling your nose as your breathe in and out?
Do you feel your tummy getting bigger as you breathe in?
Can you feel your body moving while you breathe?
Each session can be as little a few minutes or if your kid wants a little longer, there is no reason why they shouldn’t practice mindfulness for as long as they feel comfortable doing so.
What Is Mindfulness In Child Development?
There has been a lot of research into how mindfulness affects children and teens and the results are astonishing. What we are seeing is that parents who encourage their kids to engage in mindfulness practices end up with children that are a lot more emotionally intelligent, less stressed and better able to handle tricky situations. Let’s look at these benefits a little more closely.
Improves Self Confidence
Science has shown us that mindfulness can help to give children a self esteem boost. In a world where there is a lot of pressure on kids to live up to the exacting standards of society, the way that they experience life is a lot different to how we experienced it growing up.
Schools are getting tougher, there is an expectation of how the child should look, speak, act and what they should be interested in. This is overwhelming enough as a parent but for a child, it can be devastating for their confidence.
But mindfulness helps children to increase their self awareness and as a result, feel more confident in their abilities. This is one of many important coping skills they will need as they enter adulthood.
Kids are known to often bicker with one another and this is because they are often not developed enough to communicate effectively. However, when we teach mindfulness to children, we are arming them with a way of improving their communication skills.
This allows them to get in touch with how they are feeling, whether those feelings are good or bad and this will help them to gain a greater understand of how they feel. The result of this? A lesser emotional outburst and a more controlled approach to communicating their thoughts.
Improves Emotional Regulation Skills
When things go wrong, it is easy to lose your focus and let your emotions get the better of you. Now imagine this lost grip on emotions for children, it feels way more intense but one of the most important coping skills for later life is to be able to manage emotions effectively.
Rather than losing it and having a burst of emotions take over them, children who do mindfulness are able to manage their moods. Research shares that this is because the act of mindfulness induces physical changes in the brain; all of that just from being able to pay attention to the present moment!
Improves Decision Making
Quite often kids find it difficult to make decisions and this is something that we carry into adulthood. But mindfulness can help with this by allowing us to focus on what is going on in the here and now rather than allowing ourselves to pay attention to things that have happened in the past or might happen in the future as a result of our decision.
Kids that engage in mindfulness will have much greater impulse control and be able to make much clearer, easier decisions.
One of the best parts of the concept is that mindfulness helps kids to be accepting of the present just as it is without feeling the need to change it. As a result of this, they will not be focused on the negatives and this will have an immediate impact on their mood.
That being said, because mindfulness helps to encourage children to pay attention to their bad feelings rather than suppress them, they will be able to deal with them more easily.
Mindfulness helps children in so many different ways. It can help them to regulate their emotions, give them greater impulse control and boost their mood. Many adults go on a lifelong search for these kind of benefits but by introducing mindfulness to children from a young age, they will be able to take advantage of these positive aspects as they enter into their adult lives.
But there is no denying that children might find mindfulness a lot more complex than us so it is imperative that when we teach out kids about mindfulness, we do so with the right approach.
Kids have enough education to think about each day at school so you shouldn’t treat this like a lesson but more like a fun family activity. Allow your kids to go at their own pace and when they are very young, it might be enough just to let them watch you practicing. As they get older, you can help them to carve out their own mindfulness practice that will serve them for the rest of their life.