If you know anything at all about mindfulness, you already know that it’s good for you. It is something that allows you to be present in all that you do and that includes parenting and picking a skillful response to their actions instead of giving into visceral reactions to kids.
If It’s Good for Us, It’s Good for Kids
So, it stands to reason that if mindfulness is good for us, it should be good for kids. There is a new body of research going on that shows that mindfulness can help kids of all ages improve their ability to calm down, pay close attention to things and learn how to make better decisions. In other words, mindfulness can help them with regulating their emotions and better their cognitive focus. It would seem that every parent would want that for their kids.
Where to Start?
So the big question is, where do you start with your kids? How can you teach them the important skills linked to mindfulness? Well, you need to start with the most important thing and that is making sure you already practice mindfulness yourself. For instance, you more than likely would have a lot of difficulties trying to teach a child ballet if you have never done it yourself. So, in order to truly teach mindfulness to your kids, you need to be practicing it yourself.
Just start off slowly by doing some meditating for five to ten minutes every day. Then find different ways you can use mindfulness in your activities on a daily basis. As long as you are doing something like this, it will be a lot easier for you to teach them.
Make Sure It’s Simple
When it comes to kids, it’s important that you keep things simple. After all, mindfulness is a very big word for younger kids to grasp. When you put it simply, mindfulness is just being aware of things. It’s a practice that helps you notice thoughts, feelings, sensations of the body, and all the things around you and what is happening in the present moment.
Don’t Impose High Expectations
If you are expecting mindfulness for your kids to get rid of their tantrums, make an overly active child a lot calmer or you just want your house to be quieter, you are more than likely going to be quite disappointed. You see, even though feeling calm or the act of being in a quiet place can be the side-effects of practicing mindfulness, it is not the true purpose or ultimate outcome.
Reasons for Teaching Kids Mindfulness
The main purpose or reason for teaching mindfulness to kids is to give them the skills they need to develop their own awareness of their outer and inner experiences, to learn to recognize their thoughts as just be thoughts, and to understand how their emotions are created in themselves. Another reason for teaching them mindfulness is to give them the tools they need for impulse control. It’s not a cure all for everything and it’s not going to totally rid them of “normal kid behavior”, such as being overly loud, whining, tantrums, arguing and so on.
Never Force Mindfulness on Kids
The last thing you want to do is try and force a child to learn mindfulness. If your kids don’t seem interested in a lesson, activity or whatever dealing with it, just drop it. In fact, this would be a good time to practice it yourself when this happens.
Here are eight fun ways that you can introduce your kids to mindfulness:
Listening to the Bell
This is a really easy way that your children can practice their mindfulness. All you do is ask them to focus on paying close attention to what they hear. Things you can use include:.
- Singing bowls
- Even phone apps that have bell or chime sounds
Explain to your children that you’ll make the sound and they need to listen very carefully until they can’t hear the bell sound anymore. This should be 30 to 60 seconds.
Breathing Buddy Practice
This is a really good one for younger kids, it teaches them to pay attention to their breathing. By telling them to pick their favorite stuffed animal and put it on their stomach while lying down they’ll find it easier to notice their chest rising and falling by looking at their stuffed animal.
Take Mindful Walks
Kids love to go for walks so the next time you take them for a walk ask them to notice what they see as you walk in your neighborhood or in a park. Consider designating one whole minute on the walk where everyone is totally silent and listen to all the different sounds.
Gratitude is a basic component of mindfulness and you can teach your kids to appreciate everything in their lives instead of only focusing on the things they crave like toys and goodies. One good way to do this is simply sit down at dinner each night and ask each person to share with the family one thing they are truly thankful for.
Spider Man Meditation
What child doesn’t love a good super hero? Spider Man is one that is quite popular and can be used in meditation. Instead of telling your kids it’s meditation instruct them to use their “Spidey Senses” in order to focus in on all they smell, hear, feel, and taste in the present.
Check Their Personal Weather Report
Explain to your children that their feelings are like a weather report and encourage them to report exactly how they are feeling at that very moment. Tell them they can use words such as rainy, calm, warm, windy, stormy, sunny, and so on. This is the kind of activity that lets them observe their state of mind without out really getting into identifying their extreme emotions. This teaches them that just like we can’t change the weather we also can’t change our feelings or emotions.
Create a Mind Jar
This is a little bit like a snow globe. When you shake it up and watch it snow. Buy different small snow globes and have them sit with them, shake them up, breathe and then watch as the storm inside the globe settles down. This helps to teach them that the storms in our minds too can settle down.
Teach Them Mindful Eating
Instead of allowing your child to quickly devour their food, try teaching them to take a piece of food like a piece of fruit or even a piece of chocolate and have them examine it before eating noticing the texture and what it looks and feels like. Then tell them to take a bite and focus on how it feels in their mouth and the sensations they get from it as they feel the texture of the food and the taste that comes from it. Instruct them to notice how it feels as it goes down their throat as well. This is a wonderful activity for kids of all ages.
No matter what, when it comes to teaching your children mindfulness the most important things to remember are to keep the exercises simple and fun. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment. If one thing doesn’t work, then find something else. By doing this, you’ll be giving your children a variety of chances to add many helpful practices to their own personal toolkit for practicing mindfulness.