Mindfulness for Children: A Practice That Lasts a Lifetime
Childhood is one of the most challenging aspects of time for any little human. Trying to find their proper places in the world while establishing right from wrong, children often feel unexplainable anxiety that is often translated into “bad” behavior by adults. Sometimes, young minds have a difficult time coping with the harsh realities of the world, and then react in ways that adults deem inappropriate. However, to curb childhood anxiety and inappropriate behaviors, it’s necessary to provide an outlet. One of the most valuable techniques for children is mindfulness.
Mindfulness, which is the practice of accepting the present, is a highly beneficial way to teach children coping strategies and to modify behaviors. With the inclusion of relaxing meditation strategies, the art of mindfulness teaches a child to simply “be.” Before you become bewildered at the idea of a child relaxing for more than several moments, ask yourself this: have you ever actually taught your child to focus on something other than his or her thoughts and emotions?
Beyond telling a child to stay calm or be quiet, many forget that children are unaware of ways to self-manage emotions. Children feel all of the same confusing emotions that adults feel on a regular basis, except it’s all new to young children – and they haven’t yet developed proper coping techniques. So, attempting to calm a child by placing him or her in timeout to “think” is only going to direct the focus on resisting emotions. Instead, it’s important to teach little ones to accept thoughts and emotions – which will later allow the children to also accept responsibilities through the understanding of these complicated emotions.There are a multitude of, easy-to-implement ways to teach mindfulness to children. Below are four of the many great strategies to ensure your child learns the art of mindfulness.
1.Create a “mindfulness corner” and concentrate on meditative breathing. Like any form of meditation, it requires time sitting still. To instigate meditation in children, try turning mindfulness into a hobby. At first, separate this time from when he or she is in trouble to avoid turning the meditation into a punishment. Work on teaching the child to concentrate on breathing. Counting breaths can be a beneficial way to calm anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions. While in the mindfulness corner, children should be taught to count until a thought or emotion comes to mind. When it does, children should accept the thought or emotion and begin counting breaths again.
2.When dealing with an anxious child, inspire him or her to stay present. Many times, anxiety is brought on through the shame of a past mistake or fear of a future ailment. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure the child remains focused on simply being. For little ones, an easy way to do so is by using a favorite stuffed animal. One of the most important aspects of mindfulness is creating an anchor to the present, so teach the child to hold onto a stuffed animal and either hug or squeeze it with each inhale and let go with each exhale.
3.For children who are kinesthetic learners, try counting movements instead. Some children naturally learn and cope better through physical movements. Luckily, mindfulness and meditation can be molded to fit each person in any way necessary. Designate a safe area of a room to allow the child to walk in slow circles. The child should count each footstep to stay relaxed in the present. If a thought or emotion comes to mind, the child can stop, take a breath, and then start the counting over again.
4.Purchase a yoga mat and instruct the child to lay flat and feel for his or her heartbeat. An additional way to anchor to the present through meditation is feel and count for heartbeats. A child can close his or her eyes and place two fingers on a pulse – either in the neck or wrist. By counting each heartbeat, the child is brought to the present to stay calm and “be.”
Search for the strategies that appropriately fit your child’s needs the most. Mindfulness is a great way to ease childhood anxiety and teach self-management. When taught in childhood, little ones can grow up to accept and understand emotions while navigating through life.
Gozde Gokozan, MS, MA
+1 424 333-0288