Want to raise a happier, healthier child? Let’s talk mindfulness and kids
We all want to raise a kid that makes good decisions, is patient, can calm down when they are upset, listens to others, and can focus in school. Most importantly, we want them happy and healthy. The good news? This can be achieved through adding easy mindful moments throughout their day.
Other perks of mindfulness for your family could include:
-Less stress and anxiety
-Better emotional and physical health
-Better problem solving
-Improved impulse control
-More compassion and kindness
First, the biggest question: what truly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is awareness. Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts (and that they are just thoughts), your feelings, and your body sensations. Mindfulness is being in the moment, in an accepting, non-judgmental manner.
Before we can begin to practice mindfulness, some of it starts with us as parents. We can’t teach a skill we aren’t versed in, so it does take us practicing, us learning about ways to use it in our lives, and us doing it genuinely in our lives.
How does mindfulness work?
Mindfulness puts a space between you and your emotions. Instead of going from trigger to emotion, such as someone yelled at me so I punched them, instead we have that trigger of someone yelling at you, taking a deep breath and processing those emotions/thoughts, and then deciding on a course of action. It gives a pause to be able to make a better decision. We have an experience without contemplating if it is good or bad, but just experiencing it for a moment before making a decision.
How to explain mindfulness to kids:
To explain it to your child could be “as a household we are going to start practicing something called mindfulness. Mindfulness is when we are in the present moment, right now, and we are taking our time. We aren’t rushing or multi-tasking. Mindfulness can be when we take a moment to breathe, to smell flowers or to relax. It can be noticing what we feel, smell, taste or where our body feels tight. Being mindful is a lot like a superpower that helps you conquer life. It takes a lot of practice though.”
How to explain mindfulness to teens:
You can expand on the previous definition, especially including the household part as teenagers often want to see their parents doing what they tell them. This can be a great bonding activity or an area for you as a parent to really model what you preach.
Great things to add on could be around areas with controlling emotions teens want to address, such as “how great would it be if you could be in the present moment, not judging yourself or others, not worrying about how you’ll react, but feeling completely calm? We are going to practice something called mindfulness together so we can work towards that. Then, if you and I fight, or you get in a fight with a classmate, we will both do better at managing our emotions and coming from a calm place.”
How to begin to practice mindfulness at your home:
First, kids are like clothes going in a washing machine, they all require different settings and thinking about what works best for that clothing style. Some of these may match their style, some you may practice for a few days and realize it isn’t for you, and that’s okay.
1: Breathing. Deep breathing is an excellent skill to practice, but it does take practicing when we are calm so then when we are angry, we don’t have to think about the mechanisms of deep breathing--we just do it naturally.
There are several different types of deep breathing:
-Use a breathing buddy. Have your child put a stuffed animal on their lap and practice belly breathing. The stuffed animal on their lap reminds them to breathe out with their stomach and not their chest.
-4-7-8 breath. One of my favorite YouTube videos to explain this is by GoZen. Essentially you breathe in for four breaths, hold for seven seconds, then breathe out for 8 breaths. 4-7-8 breathing wonders with anxiety as we often breathe very shallow and fast when we have anxiety, and this works to get our breathing longer and deeper so our body can go to a calmer state.
-Square breathing. This is a great one for school as it can be done with a pencil and paper. Have the child draw a square and practice breathing in as they go up a side, holding on one side, then breathing out as they go down our side. They can trace this with their fingers as they go or keep drawing around the square.
2: Check in with your body
Progressive muscle relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation is a great way to check in with the body and notice where there is tension or tightness. Often our feelings match with sensations in the body and this is another way to notice both of those. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches kids how to relax their body and feel calm. There are progressive muscle relaxations for kids on YouTube. One of my favorite kids books is The Angry Octopus which goes through the steps of progressive muscle relaxation.
Kids Yoga: Kids need to stretch and move their bodies same as we do as adults. Yoga encourages body awareness and self-esteem as well. There are kids yoga pages on Youtube such as Cosmic Kids Yoga where she has many kid-themed yoga videos including Pokemon, Frozen, and Wizard of Oz.
3: Mindful eating
-Mindful eating can be great to teach kids how to slow down and enjoy their food. One way to do it is to have a piece of chocolate (or a raisin) and follow a mindful eating script or find a YouTube on mindful eating. This can be practiced as a family at dinner or even checking in with the body during eating with taking breaks, putting the fork down between bites, or slowly drinking water.
Your kids can meditate every day. One way is to put it into your schedule so kids know it occurs at a certain point in the day every day. Have the kids pick a quiet spot in the house that can be their area then have them sit criss cross. Have kids start meditating by slowly working into it, for example one minute for all of one week, then two minutes the next week, up to the child’s age. If a child is ten, they would work up to meditating for 10 minutes a day. This could even be near an aquarium or outside on the porch where they could still be surrounded by nature.
Listen to a bell-This can be a chime, a bell, or just an app or video of the bell. Cosmic Kids Yoga also has a video of this. Have your child listen to the bell and have them hold up their hand when they stop hearing it. They can also count how many times they hear the bell. This works on focus and concentration.
Love and Kindness-Love and kindness meditations are great for learning compassion and avoiding judgment. These can be found on YouTube.
5: Establish a gratitude routine
-Gratitude is a powerful tool. For kids, it can lead to less behavioral problems, healthier immune systems, etc.
-A good way to get in gratitude is everyone at the dinner table says three things they are grateful for from that day. These don’t have to be big things, for example, graduating middle school, but could be that a friend saved them a seat or they ate a good snack. This can be varied with three things that made you laugh that day which is a good way to get in shared laughter as a family and strengthen relationships.
-Another way to get in gratitude is have everyone keep a gratitude journal and write three things a day.
-A final way is a GLAD jar. Glad stands for grateful for, learned, achieved, and took delight in. GLAD can be used with a physical jar that kids put the topics in, an acronym to use at dinner or before bed, or keeping it in a journal.
6: Mindful walking
-Take a noticing walk. Walk through your neighborhood and try to notice things you may not have seen before. Or have a specific goal, such as collecting items like all the colors of the rainbow or noticing all the colors or the rainbow around you. This could even work great for kids who are learning letters, such as pointing out things that start with a certain letter.
-Taking a mindful body walk. Focus on noticing the body sensations as you walk, such as your foot hitting the pavement, how many steps it takes to get to the mailbox or your breath.
7: Make a calm down jar
Calm down jars are great for taking a moment to breathe, reflect, and watch the sparkles. They can also be used for timers or as a way to clear the brain. Recipes can be found online. A great book to teach calm down jars with is Moody Cow Meditates (which can be found on YouTube.
If you want these and more mindfulness tips brought to your workplace, feel free to check out our Mindfulness with Mary Willoughby at https://www.willowtreehealingcenter.org/services-1
Also, if you feel confused by any of these or want help implementing them in your family's life, you can always book an appointment with us at (757)296-8794 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org