This informal CPD article Is Mindfulness Really For Kids? was provided by Centre of Excellence, a worldwide online training provider.
The Dalai Lama once claimed that if every eight-year-old in the world was taught the art of meditation, we could eliminate violence within one generation. It’s a beautiful idea, certainly. But is it fair to place these adult musings and troubles on the shoulders of children?
Some critics of mindfulness for children would say not. But in actual fact, with a proper understanding of what mindfulness really means, proponents say it is hugely beneficial to a child’s wellbeing. Contrary to the naysayers’ arguments, mindfulness for children is not just a fad but rather a way of teaching children methods for coping with the difficulties life will bring.
But it’s so important to keep a child’s best interests at heart throughout the practice. Where this is achieved, many say that mindfulness has vastly improved their children’s wellbeing.
Here’s how it works.
What is Mindfulness?
Simply put, it’s a practice of awareness that enables you to live in the moment – an ability children sadly lose all too soon, thanks to the pace and stressors of the modern world. Indeed, children can experience stress – just like adults. When you consider that stress is fundamentally internal – in other words, how we react to things – mindfulness can help both adults and children deal with their stress.
By helping your children to be mindful, you can help them understand that their thoughts do not control or define who they are. In that sense, it helps children let go of stress and anxiety and live for the now.
There are other benefits of mindfulness for children, including:
- Aiding emotional intelligence
- Better focus
- More awareness of their bodies, thoughts, and feelings
- Less exam anxiety
- More kindness and empathy through attunement to others
- Increased executive function
- Better impulse control
So, How Can Mindfulness Work for Children?
Many mindfulness practices for adults can be easily realigned to meet a child’s needs.
Take the tea ceremony. In Zen monasteries, preparing the morning tea in quiet contemplation – taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the ritual – helps centre mindfulness practitioners. It can help you feel gratitude for what you have, be empowered in what you can create and enjoy, and awaken the senses to the present moment. You can try this with your child’s juice in the morning. Likewise, the simple act of eating dinner with no electronic distractions will help your child attune to their food, their enjoyment of it, and how it nourishes them in a more mindful eating practice.
Mindfulness meditation is also a great tool to help kids. Unlike traditional meditation in which the goal is clearing your mind of any thoughts, mindfulness meditation focuses instead on being present in the moment and being with your thoughts in a calm way. In its most simple breathing technique, it only takes a minute of deep in and out breathing – holding and releasing your breath, paying attention to the sensations of breathing, and letting your thoughts flow by.
Body scan meditations – in which you literally take notice of your whole body and acknowledge areas that feel tense – and squeeze and release meditations – in which you tense large muscles in your body and then release – are two more simple and quick techniques for kids.
Gratitude exercises and affirmations are also simple and fun! Try asking your child about one thing they feel grateful for – a friend, their favourite fruit in their packed lunch, their cosy bed. For affirmations, start simple. Ask them to say one thing they like about themselves. Maybe they could try doing that every day for a week.
The wonderful thing about mindfulness is that it teaches children to be in tune with what makes them feel safe, calm, and content – giving them an awareness of all the wonderful things that make them unique. See if it works for your child today.
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