From the time that children are small, most parents are aware of their responsibilities for teaching children good habits. Parents encourage their children to brush their teeth, pick up their toys, make healthier food choices, do their homework, and get daily exercise. Our hope is that the skills they learn early on will follow them for a lifetime. We also encourage them to mind their manners with their elders and others. Have you considered how you can use mindfulness activities as a tool to help your children to regulate their emotions, be more focused, and make better decisions?
What is Mindfulness and Does It Have Meaning for Children?
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that helps you focus on being aware of the present and calmly accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgment. Mindfulness means being aware of your external environment and being aware of yourself within the environment. It also means being aware of your body and focusing on your thoughts at that moment.
Those are a lot of big words and ideas for some children. In reality, even small children can understand these concepts, as author of The Joy Plan, Kaia Roman found out when she gave a presentation on mindfulness to elementary school children. The children in her audience described mindfulness as:
“Relaxing out of our daily troubles and stress”
“A way to stay yourself when you’re going through something troubling”
“It’s like getting off of a one-railroad track and getting on to another one”
How Does Mindfulness Benefit Children?
A 2008 report called Teaching Mindfulness to Children, by The Gestalt International Study Center, states that teaching children mindfulness can address many emotional and behavioral needs of children.
The report lists some of the conditions that mindfulness techniques can help with:
- Chronic pain
- Borderline personality disorder
- Eating disorders
Mindfulness techniques teach children that emotions are fleeting and that being present in the moment can help them to better self-regulate.
Mindfulness Activities for Children
Perhaps you are ready to start some mindfulness activities with your children, but where do you start? Fortunately, there’s no shortage of activities for children that are fun and engaging.
The Chopra Center recommends using the acronym STOP.
S-Stop what they are doing.
T-Take three breaths with long inhales and exhales.
O-Observe and identify their physical sensations, surrounding, and emotions.
P-Proceed and carry on with increased awareness.
Breathing Buddies is an exercise where you ask children to place a stuffed animal on their bellies and focus on the toy as it rises and falls with their breathing.
When you practice mindfulness with your child, you are helping them develop life habits that will serve them well every day of their lives and will follow them into adulthood. They are also a great way for parents to spend meaningful, quality time with their children.