6 Ways to Introduce Mindfulness to Children

 In Lifestyle, Mindful Leadership

How to Introduce Mindfulness to Children

Adults are not the only ones that experience feelings of stress, worry or anxiety. Children are just as susceptible to the pressures of daily life and need to learn how to manage their emotions as they grow older. No matter what their age, it is helpful to introduce mindfulness to children and you may find it will benefit the entire family.

Roy Hintsa, a US mindfulness-based stress reduction facilitator says, “Mindfulness promotes well-being. Children become happier and kinder. They get in touch with their emotions and learn to regulate them”. He says that mindfulness gives children the opportunity to choose to respond thoughtfully, rather than react impulsively.

Here are a few ways you can help your children become more mindful.

Mindful Breathing for Children

Young children may find it hard to meditate, but they can still reap the benefits of mindful breathing. It can help them focus, increase their attention and awareness, and be helpful in times of stress or anxiety.

Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, introduced us to a great breathing activity for kids called Breathing Buddies. He came across Breathing Buddies in a 2nd grade classroom in Spanish Harlem, New York City, and it’s a simple way to bring a child’s awareness to their breathing and enhance their attention and self-management, without making it too complicated.

Mindful Journaling for Children

As adults we are encouraged to keep a gratitude journal to cultivate positivity and give us perspective on life.  In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington is a big fan of gratitude journals. She mentions a study that found journaling  “lowered participants self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night”.

There is no reason why your children can’t keep gratitude journals too. If you have older kids, encourage them to write in their journals, or, to involve the entire family, have a gratitude board and every night ask your children to think of something they were grateful for during the day.

Mindful Walking with Children

Outdoors is a fantastic place to introduce mindfulness to children and research suggests that being outside can also reduce stress. If you have an active family this could be the perfect activity. Go for a walk outside together and encourage everyone to pay attention to his or her senses. What can you see, smell or hear? Can you feel the ground under your feet, the smell of the trees, or the sound of the birds?

Mindful Eating with Children

For most parents it’s a challenge to ensure their kids are eating a balanced, healthy diet, never mind having to think about mindful eating too. However, it’s easier than you think to help kids develop a healthy relationship with food and eat mindfully.

Our lives are so busy and it’s common to grab food on the run or eat in front of the TV. The first step to mindful eating is to change your routine and make time to eat one meal a day as a family. Sitting at a table at dinnertime is a great opportunity to share conversation about the day and enjoy special mindful conversations together.

The next step is to teach your kids to eat mindfully. In your own way, slow down the eating process and go through these steps:

  • Before you begin, ask your kids to take a look at the food. What do they see?
  • Smell the food, what does it smell like?
  • Is the food making any noises?
  • What does it feel like? Is it cold or hot? Is it hard or soft?
  • Ask them to start with 3 mindful bites. Notice how the food feels in their mouths after each bite. How it tastes, does it taste different as they chew? Can they feel the food go down into their body when they swallow?

Mindful Listening for Children

Let’s face it, everyone would love their children to become better listeners. Listening is an important skill to learn, and if you teach mindful listening at a young age you’re giving your kids the basic skills to become great active listeners as they grow up.

Try a mindful listening practice. Make the sounds yourself, or use the existing sounds around you. Ask your children to listen to what they can hear. It could be sounds from far away, or sounds close by. Take them on a walk outside and let them focus on what noises they hear.  Allow them to listen, without interruption, and later talk about the different sounds they heard.  This teaches your children to be fully present and focus their attention on the moment. It’s a great communication skill that will become handy later in life.

Mindful Bedtime with Children

Create a bedtime routine based around mindfulness. Everyone knows the importance of creating a bedtime routine for children, but adding that extra element of mindfulness may improve their quality of sleep and help them wind down before they close their eyes. If they are older it could be a simple body scan mediation, or even a basic breathing activity like the Breathing Buddies practice we mentioned earlier.

Remember, your children will learn from your example, so your own mindfulness practice is just as important as teaching them these valuable tools. Don’t set your expectations too high for younger children, instead let them guide you in what they are comfortable with and what they enjoy doing.

If you practice mindfulness yourself, there’s a big chance you are already passing these tools onto your children. If you would like to learn more about how you can introduce mindfulness to children – connect with Jullyana today. Jullyana is Forme’s resident Mindfulness Coach and can be reached at jullyana@forme.edu.au.

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