All parents hope to raise kind, intelligent, and well-adjusted children. Unfortunately, children, today are stressed beyond belief and are afflicted by a multitude of mental health issues.
These things not only complicate their lives, but their future outcomes in terms of interpersonal relationships, how well they do in their careers, and how they see and feel about themselves.
More and more adults are turning to the practice of mindfulness to combat these issues for themselves. Now the practice is beginning to gain traction with younger generations as parents are now understanding the cognitive and emotional benefits of mindfulness and how it can help children to deal positively with the common stressors and challenges surrounding them.
What Does Mindfulness for Children Look Like?
Mindfulness is often defined as being present and living in the moment, without judgment. This definition holds true in the simplest of terms. However, mindfulness is not also so simple.
While mindfulness revolves around being present, it’s also considered to be more of a lifelong journey. A journey that keeps this practice of being present front and center for a more enlightened life. In other words, it takes work, commitment, and conditioning of the mind to become actively present in your daily life.
While it’s easy to notice that most adults don’t live in the moment, it’s often misconstrued that children do. As we grow older, we tend to reflect on our childhood as the “carefree” days that had us curious about everything, unjaded and unstressed by responsibilities, as well as intrinsically imaginative.
However, children don’t necessarily obtain the type of awareness or focus needed to evaluate the present moment. In reality, children encompass more of a beginner’s mind rather than mindfulness.
The Importance of Mindfulness for Children
As children grow older they begin attending school and participating in activities. They begin discovering who they are. They also begin to deal with the stresses of interpersonal relationships, hectic schedules, and even violence at school.
All of these things leave great potential for both distractions and negative self-reflections to sprout and grow within their minds.
For example, perhaps they aren’t able to focus on studying for an upcoming test because they recently failed their last test. Something like this can snowball within a young child’s impressionable mind, as negative experiences tend to lead to compounded negative thinking.
These kinds of negative experiences can also lead to a decrease in motivation, as they begin to feel defeated. Additionally, children aren’t exactly mentally equipped to recognize and block negative thoughts because they’re not taught how to do it.
According to multiple studies, children today are more stressed than ever before. They’re also five-to-eight times more likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression. The primary culprit has to do with the high expectations of performing well in school and getting into a good college. The external factors such as school violence, the climate crisis, fitting in socially and physically, and friendship drama follow closely behind.
Luckily, the benefits of practicing mindfulness for kids has gained enough traction to the point that some schools have been implementing mindfulness practice in the classroom. As mentioned above, mindfulness attributes to a different way of thinking, which can help children of all ages remain focused and present—ultimately allowing them to respond to challenges and stressors in a more thoughtful and productive way.
This is especially true for kids who have issues with anxiety or tend to act out impulsively.
The overall benefits of mindfulness in kids include (but are not limited to):
- A reduction in stress and improvement in stress management
- An increased sense of well-being
- Improved attention span
- Improved communication skills and social interactions
- Improved self-control
- Improved focus
- Better self-esteem
- Better regulation and control of emotions
- More compassion and empathy for others
- A more positive outlook on life
Of course, all of the above—plus seeking enlightenment—are the goals of practicing mindfulness. By teaching your children about mindfulness and how to practice it throughout each day will help them rewire their brains for an all-over better life.
How to Teach Your Children Mindfulness
As you can see, there is a multitude of positive benefits that come from teaching mindfulness to children.
Now the question is: How can you teach your children to practice mindfulness?
The first step to teaching others mindfulness is learning it and understanding it for yourself. This makes mindfulness something that you and your family can practice together, to an extent.
Since there’s technically no wrong way to begin a mindfulness journey, here are a few simple ways you can help your child learn and practice:
- Make use of guides. Mindfulness is generally achieved through meditation, which can be incredibly difficult for anxious or fidgety kids to practice. It’s a good idea to enlist the help of a guided meditation app that they can listen to and follow for a certain amount of time each day.
- Practice naming body sensations, thoughts, and emotions. This can be done at almost any time. For example, when you’re playing with your kids or getting them ready for the first day of school, have them describe what they are sensing, thinking, and feeling. This will help them gain insight into their inner experiences, allowing them to choose more appropriate responses
- Practice gratitude. Teaching your children to practice gratitude is incredibly important to begin with. This is especially because it’s a way to pull yourself into the moment, focus on the things that matter, and it leaves you uplifted and much happier. You can have your children keep a gratitude journal, or you can sit with them and take turns expressing three to five things you’re all grateful for each day.
- Practice awareness. Teach your children to stop and observe their surroundings with all their senses. Do this often—when walking outside, sitting at the dinner table, etc. have them identify what they smell, see, hear, taste, and feel.
- Practice breathing. Studies show that practicing mindful breathing can help rid the body and mind of errant stress and anxiety while anchoring you in the present moment. Teach your children how to practice mindful breathing until it becomes instinctual.
It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to practicing mindfulness for kids, you can’t force it. The last thing you want is for them to associate the practice with punishment. So, keep it simple and gradually ease them into forming their new mindful habits.
Mindfulness is something that should be practiced every day to make it a part of your life. When children make mindfulness a habit, they’ll have a consistent reminder to focus on only what’s right in front of them rather than allowing their minds to wander and ruminate on past events for future events that haven’t even happened yet.
When children master mindfulness, they become much more positive and happy people.