Encouraging Mindfulness in Children
Helping Kids to Tune into Their Zen
Encouraging Mindfulness in Children by Dr. Sasha Lynn BPsych(Hons), DClinPsych, MAPS, MCCP
Ahhhh kids. Those endless bundles of energy, bouncing off the walls, filled with ideas and stories and giggles. They sometimes seem to race through the day, from sunrise to sunset. Meanwhile, we’re left dazed, confused and wondering why our wine glass is empty (Seriously. How does that wine disappear so quickly? Surely we can’t be drinking it without realising. Oh, wait …).
Having active kids is so important, but so is having the ability to slow down and be present. I know, sounds like a complete paradox, right? Well, our cherubs can have it all. We just need to help show them some neat tricks to be mindful.
The thing is we are so darn busy these days, and our kids are absorbing that busy too. In a world that finds it hard to slow down, we’re all searching for ways to chill the heck out. Enter Mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is something that has taken hold in Western society over recent years, but it’s nothing new to Eastern cultures. The idea behind mindfulness is learning to stop, and take stock of what’s around you now. Focus on enjoying the present moment, instead of rushing too far into the future, or dragging your heels too much in the past. Being aware of your own experiences. Sometimes we just need to accept things for what they are, right now. It can help us slow down a bit, calm down a bit and appreciate what we’ve got.
Mindfulness has been all the rage for adults (adult colouring in, anyone?), but we’ve only just started looking at using it for children. So far the results of encouraging mindfulness in children are showing some promising findings, with some research showing that it can help kids with decision making, improved concentration and skills in calming down. Many schools are now adopting mindfulness to help students. I know, the idea of getting a child to be quiet for longer than 5.68 seconds and meditating seems about as easy as dressing an octopus in a swimsuit, but there are things we can do with our cherubs to help them be a bit more aware and mindful.
So what can we do at home to help our kids find their zen?
- Practice calm breathing: Teach your child to slowly breathe in through their nose, hold briefly and then breathe slowly out through their mouth. While they’re breathing in, have them notice their breath. What happens to their nose when they breathe all that air in? What happens to their tummies?
- Teaching focus with the senses: You can do all sorts of focus activities here; from using a bell and having children focus on paying attention to what they hear, or a novel activity whereby you both have some food (apple, banana, carrot etc) and you focus on the food first, noticing what it looks like and feels like, noticing how it smells, and then the sensations of biting into the food. You could have a fluffy pillow, and help them to pay attention to how the pillow feels in their hands, what their fingers do as they run them along the fluffy pillow. Any activity that teaches them to stop, focus on what’s in the moment, and really experiencing what’s in front of them.
- Just making every day things mindful: For example, rather than throwing the children out of a moving car in the direction of school (or is that just me?), having them notice what’s around them in the car on the way to school. Or if you’re playing in the backyard, talking together about what they can see, hear, touch. What does the grass feel like under their feet? What does the wind do when they fly high on the swing?
- Make a glitter snow globe: Ugggh, I know. Glitter. The herpes of the craft world. But it has a good purpose here. Get a jar, fill it with water, sprinkle some glitter in that bad boy, do the lid tightly and flip it. In that time though, have the kids sit, use their calm breathing as they notice the glitter floating around, and notice where the glitter settles. Quick and simple.
- Mindful colouring: We know that adults have lost their minds over colouring in books, and our kids adore colouring stuff (even walls in this house….), so when they’re doing their colouring in, just help them to stop and pay attention to what they’re doing. Make the colouring in slow and purposeful. Noticing what the pencils do to the paper as they colour in, the light and shade they can create. Breathing in as they pick a colour and breathing out as they start to colour. It doesn’t have to be an hour long exercise, but just a quick 10 minute of mindful colouring can be really beneficial.
- Have a Miracle Morning. Ania from ‘The Sane Mum’ does a fabulous job here covering how to have a Miracle Morning of your own to promote peace in your day. You could adapt it, or use bits and pieces, in your own house to balance out the crazy morning rush.
There are many more neat tricks, but these are just some quick and snappy mindful tools, where kids don’t even feel like they’re being mindful. Winning.
Heck, if we get the added bonus of getting a bit more zen and slowing down ourselves, then it’s worth giving this stuff a go!
A great mindful exercise is Yoga. Check out where your closet Yoga studio on the Gold Coast is here.
Dr. Sasha Lynn BPsych(Hons), DClinPsych, MAPS, MCCP is a Writer, Clinical Psychologist, Academic and Mum. Want to read more? You can find her over at her blog ‘From The Left Field’ where she describes herself as “Dr. Phil’s alter-ego. With hair.”
Find more related reading on Families Magazine: