Teaching Children Mindfulness
By now, there’s a good chance that you have heard of mindfulness. It seems to be everywhere these days, but what exactly is it? Mindfulness is a meditation practice that begins with paying attention to breathing to focus on the here and now. It means being aware of your present moment (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations) without judgments and without trying to change it.
Why Teach Mindfulness?
In today’s world with TV, video games, computers and busy schedules it can be hard to focus on the here and now, however, the benefits of being able to be mindful are vast. Recent scientific research has shown the positive effects it can have on positive well- being and mental health. It has been shown to improve attention, reduce stress, and increase the ability to regulate emotions and feel compassion and empathy.
3 Benefits of Being Mindful for Children:
- Being mindful can give you more choices and more control over behaviors. Being fully aware is important if a child is overly emotional or impulsive. It allows them the opportunity to slow down and catch themselves before they do something they might regret later.
- Being mindful can increase compassion and empathy for oneself and others. When kids learn to be aware while being nonjudgmental, they can turn the criticisms into observable facts.
- Being mindful can help with focus and make kids more productive. When kids stay focused, they can stay engaged better in activities and school work.
How to Teach Mindfulness at Home:
An excellent way to teach mindfulness at home is to model and participate in mindfulness as a parent. Setting routines to take a few moments, close your eyes, notice your breath, thoughts, emotions, physical sensations without judgment can make a great impact on the whole family. Parents can encourage their kids to take a few moments during homework time, stressful times or just any transition time to practice being mindful. Being mindful can be fun too!
Try the following exercises with your child:
- The seeing game can be asking your child to take a minute to notice things around the room they haven’t noticed before. Did they notice anything new or different?
- Going on a nature walk can be turned into a mindfulness exercise encouraging your child to use their five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) to be mindful of the world around them.
- The “tense and relax” exercise; in this exercise kids tense different muscles in their bodies for a few seconds and then release. This is a great way for kids to relax and be present.
- Breathing friends- Use a stuffed animal to help your child practice mindful breathing. Teach your child to take deep breaths and notice how their body feels as their chest and belly goes up and down. Then have the child teach the deep breathing to the stuffed animal to empower them.
Rathus, J. H., & Miller, A. L. (n.d.). DBT skills manual for adolescents.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!