How To Teach And Encourage Mindfulness In Children
Children of all ages can benefit from the act of mindfulness and understanding their bodies and emotions. The simple act of bringing a gentle and calm attitude to the present not only helps children but parents, teachers and caregivers too. Mindfulness can help to minimise and reduce the feelings of anxiety and stress and instead increase happiness levels.
Children of all ages grapple with adversity, without even realising it, from babies getting hungry and tired to toddlers learning to understand self-control. Children go through a lot of things as they grow and develop, from developing friendships, navigating school and learning to navigate newfound independence.
At each stage of their development, mindfulness can be a hugely helpful tool to minimise anxiety and increase feelings of happiness and calm. Mindfulness is a really simple technique and has become popular in recent years and is being taught to people in all walks of life, including athletes, high-power businesses and increasingly so to children both in school and at home. With this in mind, here are some ways that you can teach and encourage mindfulness in your children.
Teach them to notice and name emotions and thoughts
Teaching your children to recognise and name their emotions and thoughts is a really useful and important skill to help them realise when they are feeling certain things and what this means. The more insight children have into the ways that their emotions work and how this can affect their physical and inner feelings, the more likely they are to manage their feelings and choose appropriate responses. For example, if your child has tantrums, ask them to explain what it feels like when that happens and how it makes them want to act. If they say they feel hot and angry, then you can help them to deal with this and explain why their body is reacting in this way.
Count their breaths
Focusing on our breathing and taking note of our breaths is one of the most popular ways to combat a whole range of feelings and emotions and when teaching mindfulness to children, is one of the easier techniques to demonstrate. Get your child to lie down with a small pillow or cuddly toy on their belly and tell them to take notice of each time they breathe in and out and the rising and falling of their belly. Getting them to count to 10, both out loud and then silently, helps to take their mind off of whatever they were feeling prior and instead puts all their focus onto counting. This then helps to calm their breathing and slow their heart rate down, which is great if they are feeling upset, anxious or angry.
Find calm activities
The amount of time that children spend on screens is much higher than it was just a couple of years ago, and it is no surprise. Much of our lives has now been moved onto technology and devices, especially during the pandemic. From homeschooling to streaming services, a large portion of our daily activities and functions require a screen.
If you and your child use screen time as a way to switch off, then why not try replacing this with calm activities instead. Instead of giving them a tablet or phone for quiet time after lunch or dinner, why not go out for a walk instead? This allows them to not only burn off some energy but take notice of the world around them. Ask them to listen out for bird noises or even just look closely at plants and trees and recognise the colours. Even daily activities, such as bath time, can be used as a way to encourage and teach mindfulness to children. Instead of having chaotic bathtimes before bed, which will only excite rather than calm, use things such as character baby washcloths to tell stories with.
Use your own process as an example
If you are trying to become more mindful yourself, or are already practising mindfulness regularly, then it’s a good idea to use your own processes as an example for younger children. Describe your own process of noticing your emotions, saying how you feel and using deep breaths to relax and calm yourself – “I am feeling overwhelmed right now. I think I need to go and take a few deep breaths… Ok, I feel much better now”. Doing this helps to normalise emotions and how to deal with them, which will leave a lasting impression on your child.
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