Beginning to teach mindfulness to your child doesn’t have to mean spending 30 minutes quietly meditating. Kids of all ages can learn to practice mindfulness, and each child’s practice will be different.
No matter how you practice it, mindfulness offers calm and clarity in difficult times. As we know, the world is not always kindhearted; kids get hurt, physically and emotionally. But if we spend the time teaching mindfulness to them, they will discover that their greatest challenges can also be their greatest teachers.
Why mindfulness activities are good for kids
Teaching children to be mindful and experience the present moment helps build their emotional intelligence. The problem is that society teaches kids (and us) to disconnect.
In a preoccupied world where technology is ubiquitous, the default reaction to stress is often to simply check out.
Don’t like how you feel? Feel bored?
Check out with something outside of yourself by playing a video game, watching tv, or checking social media. When our children learn to disconnect from their life, it’s no wonder they struggle with their emotions.
Mindfulness counters this disconnection by helping you to slow down and connect with your thoughts, feelings and the world around you.
Over time, kids learn to tune into their experiences, both good and bad, and learn that their experiences and emotions are manageable.
Teaching children to check in instead of checking out of, builds strong emotional intelligence.
Meditation and mindfulness practices are helpful for the entire family. They can help you feel less stressed, more present, and be more effective as a parent.
One of the most valuable gifts of this practice is that what we practice ourselves, helps others. You can try these 10 Mindfulness Tips for Mamas to help you get started.
Simple ways to teach mindfulness
If you think you don’t have time for even a few mindfulness exercises, think again. There are small moments in your everyday life that can become a mindful moment if you are paying attention. You and your kids can practice being mindful whenever you are reminded of these everyday moments:
- Lying in bed first thing in the morning, just before getting up
- Hearing the birds chirping or feeling your dog or cat rub up against you
- Hugging someone
- Hearing the sound of laughter or laughing yourself
- Feeling the breeze in your hair and on your face
- Taking the first bite of your favorite meal
- Enjoying the feeling of reading a story before bed, rather than running through your to-do list for after your child is asleep
- Encourage your child to tune into their senses at any given time (e.g., I can feel, I can see, I can hear etc.)
How mindfulness exercises helped my family
I've really seen the positive impact of modeling mindfulness activities for my children.
My youngest son has struggled with sleeping in his own bed this past year. There have been lots of middle of the night tears! Through much practice (and patience), he was able to tune in and express his feelings about why sleeping on his own was suddenly upsetting him so much-he was lonely and scared in the night. The dark felt too big to handle alone!
This led to our boys sharing a room, the purchase of a bunk bed (my little feels like he's safer in the cozy bottom bunk), adding an extra night light and changing his bedding so he feels a bit more ‘hugged' while sleeping. Everyone in my house now gets a lot more sleep!
Allow yourself to tune in when you experience these moments and look for other moments in your day that you can slow down and be mindful. You’ll notice yourself reconnecting with your life effortlessly. Together, you and your kids should be able to think of dozens of more ways to slow down and be mindful every day.
P.S. In case you want to try it, here's a simple meditation exercise to get you started.
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