We have often read about how mindfulness is good for us adults. But did we ever consider that mindfulness is just as good for kids? Teaching mindfulness to kids is a new and growing interest, with many schools now taking up the practice. Science-based research has shown that teaching kids to be mindful has many benefits, foremost among them emotional control, cognitive focus and compassion.
How Children Benefit from Mindfulness
- Improved attention and memory processing
- Focus on the present, leading to self-awareness
- Emotional regulation and control of impulsive reaction, especially of negative feelings such as fear or anger
- Develop kindness for others; cultivate positive behavior like empathy and compassion
Mindfulness promotes mental well-being in children by reducing stress and anxiety, and regulating aggression and ADHD symptoms. They do better in school when they learn how to focus in the classroom and surveys have shown that schools who teach mindfulness have fewer incidents of bullying and conflicts.
On the other hand, don’t have unreasonable expectations from your children after having lessons in mindfulness. It will not remove tantrums but outbursts will not be as agitated or prolonged. It will not guarantee that your children will suddenly land on the honor roll but it can make them more enthusiastic about going to school. Keep in mind that they are still children at heart.
What teaching mindfulness will do is to develop their skills for awareness and to recognize their emotions so that they are better equipped to handle them. So how do we as parents teach mindfulness?
Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to Kids
Image by: Harry Koopman
Start with yourself.
To be an effective teacher of mindfulness, you should practice it too. If you are new to meditation, start with 10 minutes a day. Choose a quiet spot and time when you can be alone. Keep still and be silent. Be aware of your breath, feelings and surroundings.
Make it easy to understand for children.
Guide them to experience awareness of their environment and their feelings at the moment. Point out to them the things they see and hear, and their sensations at the moment.
Practice their breathing.
Let them breathe deeply in and out at regular intervals while keeping still and silent. Allow them to focus on their breathing. Make focusing easier by giving them a breathing companion. It could be a small pillow to put on their chest so they can see the object rises and falls with their breath.
Stroll down the neighborhood or in the park. Point out the things you see along the way and the sounds you hear. Don’t talk while taking the walk. Tell them to concentrate on the environment and their sense of sight, hearing, touch and smell.
Image Source: Kenley Neufeld
Teach them to listen.
Use a sound, like a bell pealing, raindrops falling or the waves gently lapping against the shore. Tell the children to concentrate on the sound until they cannot hear it anymore.
Encourage arts and crafts.
Introduce them to coloring books, cross stitching, creating things out of sticks, fabric, paper or other material. Tell them to focus on the materials, how fabric or yarn feels in their hands, what the smell of paint is, etc.
Let them think of things they are grateful for each day.
Ask them to think of things they are thankful for – a nice classmate, a pet, etc. A grateful heart has positive thoughts. It develops optimism and a desire to help others. An attitude of gratitude also makes children more compassionate towards others.
When your children feel anger or fear, talk to them about it.
Let them know these are normal feelings; then teach them how to control their reactions. Guide them to detach their minds from their feelings, to recognize why they are angry and see the situation from another point of view.