Teaching Mindfulness to Kids

As an increasing number of adults explore the practice and benefits of mindfulness, you may begin to wonder if this technique can benefit kids as well.

The simple answer?

ABSOLUTELY!

But how do we teach our kids to practice mindfulness in a way that is both age-appropriate and effective? Let’s start by reviewing what mindfulness is, and then take a look at some tips for teaching mindfulness to kids.

Mindfulness: What is it and why is it helpful?

Mindfulness is most often defined as one’s personal awareness of present feelings, thoughts, experiences, and environment. It is a mental state in which a person becomes purposefully conscious of what is happening both inside and outside of his/her body at any given moment. This state of awareness involves acceptance and is free from judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of recognizing what is happening right now, without labeling thoughts as “right” or “wrong” and without trying to change anything. Numerous studies find the benefits of mindfulness to include a decrease in stress, depression, and anxiety as well as an increase in focus, attention, and self-regulation. Performing a mindfulness exercise will not only bring about a sense of calm in one specific moment but will also better prepare your body and mind to react more calmly in future moments of stress. With regular practice, mindfulness can eventually lead to improved coping skills and an overall increased sense of daily contentment.

Tips for teaching mindfulness to kids

  1. Model mindfulness
    • As a parent, you are your child’s best teacher! By committing to the practice of mindfulness yourself, you will not only help your child to learn these new skills, you will also begin to feel the benefits within your own life.
  2. Practice mindful breathing
    • One of the best ways to begin exploring mindfulness (for adults and children) is to practice mindful breathing. Find a quiet space to sit with your child and take a few moments to just pay attention to your breath. Set an expectation that together you will take five big breaths and you will both try very hard to pay attention only to those breaths. Help bring your child’s awareness to his/her breathing with questions such as: Where can you feel it? Does it make any sound? What parts of your body move when you breathe?
  3. Take a mindful walk
    • Just as with the breathing exercise, it will be helpful to set expectations before taking part in this practice. Tell your child you will take a walk together and during this walk you are going to pay close attention to what you see, what you hear, and what you feel. You can even turn this into a game to make it more fun: “Let’s see how many birds we hear while we are walking today!”To help your child focus during this practice, talk as you walk: “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?”It is also helpful to draw your child’s attention specifically to things you notice. “I hear a dog barking. I feel the wind blowing on my arms. I see three ants walking on the sidewalk.” As you walk, try not to linger too much on any particular feeling or sensation. Identify what you notice, pause, and then move on.
  4. Stay simple
    • Be sure to practice mindfulness at a level appropriate for your individual child. Young children will benefit from language that is more familiar than “mindful” or “conscious.” Instead you can use words such as “listen,” “look,” or “notice.” The focus of this practice is not on the specific language used but on the awareness in a particular moment. Start with simple words and as your child grows (in both age and mindfulness knowledge) you can start to add in more complex language.
  5. Make mindfulness part of your routine
    • Set aside a set amount of time each day to practice mindfulness with your child. You can start by setting the goal to practice mindfulness for 5 minutes each day—adding this time before or after something that is already part of your daily routine. Perhaps mindfulness can become part of your bedtime routine, or maybe it is something you can try every day before dinner. Remember: mindfulness is not just a tool to be used in times of stress. It is most beneficial when incorporated regularly throughout your family’s daily routine. Practice until it becomes habit!

More resources

Check out this website (Guided Meditation for Children) for some freeguided meditations for children and more information on mindfulness!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your mindfulness or your child’s development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Stephanie Wroblewski, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Reference: Wedge, M. (2018, September 18). 7 Ways Mindfulness can Help Children’s Brains. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/

Photo Credit: khamkhor via pixabay.com

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