by Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins
Mindfulness is simply focusing your awareness in the present moment. I've written about how beneficial mindfulness is for adults, and gave some tips on how to introduce mindfulness into your life. Well mindfulness is not only good for adults, mindfulness is good for our kids too!
Several studies have shown that your child may perform better on cognitive tasks by practicing mindfulness. This includes better problem solving and reasoning skills, greater focus and attention, and being able to think more creatively.
AUTISM & ADHD
Practicing mindfulness through meditation and yoga may help your autistic child. Research shows that it can help your child relax easier, express feelings better, and maintain self control. It may even improve the family’s quality of life.
Mindfulness may also benefit your child with ADHD (and help you as well). A 2011 study showed that when parents and children participated in a mindfulness training program, parents reported less ADHD behavior, children felt better, and parents felt less stressed.
EMOTIONAL WELL BEING
A large body of research supports mindfulness as a way to help your child emotionally. Benefits include reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep and self-esteem, and increased empathy. Adolescents who are mindful feel better about themselves, have more friends, and tend to be more positive.
MINDFULNESS ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
Before you start a mindfulness practice with your child, keep the following in mind.
It’s easier to show your child how to be mindful if you’re mindful yourself. If you don’t have a mindfulness practice, this is a good opportunity for you to start one (go here for some tips). Cultivating maindfulness can be a great activity for you and your child to do together.
Don’t go into this with any set expectations. Mindfulness won’t suddenly transform your child into a calm, peaceful being all the time. She’ll still have tantrums, whine, and get angry. But over time you’ll notice better self-control and regulation of her behavior.
Don’t force anything. If you introduce mindfulness to your child and he doesn’t seem interested, that’s ok. Give it some time and try again.
Do it regularly. Just like adults, kids have to practice mindfulness on a regular basis to see the benefits.
Below are some activities to help your child be more mindful.
Focus on the breath. Have your child lie down on her back in a quiet place. With a younger child place a favorite stuffed animal on her belly. Tell her to focus on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as she breaths. An older child can place her hands on her belly and focus on the rise and fall of her hands as she breaths. Do this for about 5 minutes.
Listen to the sound. An easy way to help your child be mindful is to have him focus on what he hears. Use a chime, bell, or an app on your phone that makes a sound. Tell him you will make a sound and he should listen carefully until he doesn’t hear the sound anymore. After the sound stops, have him focus for another minute on what other sounds he can hear.
Gratitude practice. Gratitude is an important part of mindfulness. It helps us all, adults and kids, appreciate what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. Dinnertime is a great opportunity to practice gratitude. Each person names one thing he/she is grateful for. You can also do this at bedtime.
The following are longer activities:
The Smiling Mind has a free series of guided mindfulness programs broken down by age groups: 7-9 years, 10-12 years, 13-15 years, and 16-18 years. These programs were developed by psychologists and focus on life skills most pertinent to each age group. There are about 20 modules for each, and they can be done online or through the free app.
The Chopra Center has the following offering – Mindfulness for Kids: A Free, 8-Week Program to Build a More Compassionate and Conscious Family. It explores meditation, yoga and breathing activities for kids, as well as medication free techniques to manage stress, anxiety, and ADHD. It also gives tips for mindful parenting,
There’s no harm to mindfulness for kids and so many benefits. So pick an activity and get started today! I'd love to hear in the comments how you plan to incorporate mindfulness in your child's life.