Today’s kids are found to be often stressed. The heavy-weight school bags, competitive environment, all work and no play, even violence at school or peer pressure everything create a burden on them. In this fast-paced world, they could not even get the time to express their feelings, share their likes and dislikes to anyone. Sometimes, the parents also expect a lot from their children which they are unable to cope up with. Be it family or teachers cannot understand the child’s intention properly through their perception. Naturally most of the kids are misjudged and become the reason of irritation for others. Their normal reaction gets sunk in the huge expectations and they start hiding their emotions. Pressures of involvement in sports, extracurricular activities, and good grades make them stressful. These kinds of pressures and stresses give birth of anxiety and depression among kids. While most of the parents are anxious about a child’s physical health, few are trying to improve the kid’s mental health. In today’s world, improving mental health plays a significant concern among the parents and teachers. But how to help the kids to cope up with the pressure so that they can enjoy a happy childhood?
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be explained as the practice of paying attention in the present moment not thinking about anything else and doing it intentionally and with non judgment. It also refers to the fact of deliberate acts of regulating attention through observation, emotions and body states. Being mindful is opposite of being multitasking. Whenever your children practice mindfulness they slowly concentrate and focus on something in both relaxing and stress-free manner.
Typical mindfulness activities are:
- Breathing without being thought-provoked about body, feelings, emotions or anything else.
- Mindful walking meditation
- Mindful eating
- Scanning of body through a mindful way in a sitting or lying down position
- Listening with non-judgment
How Mindfulness Helps
The practice of being mindful allows children to handle frustration when they encounter any difficulties in their lives. It is very much effective for your children when they require proper concentration on something specific and not allowing destruction to mislead them. The more your kids will practice mindfulness the more they can reap the good result of it.
Research shows that anyone can improve their attention span by practicing mindfulness. Young people, who often faced trouble while paying attention, are now capable of paying attention better and less susceptible to distraction after learning to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness also helps individual to stay calm under pressure situation, be more patience and get better with others. It has the direct impact on learning. It helps teen and kids to be a good listener and feel happier over all.
Childhood and adolescence are the two important segments in the development process of the young. Those stages are considered to be the rudimental base for their future mental health. Practicing mindfulness allows kids to learn how to manage any situation and response thoughtfully rather than just reacting. This skill is very much useful to face challenges in life. More precisely, practicing mindfulness overpowers the kids and teens to control the stress by regulating their emotions and helps them to develop a positive outlook towards the life. Kids and teens that are acquainted with mindfulness can develop a better understanding of their brain’s functionalities. They can also develop a sense of curiosity about how their minds function and why they feel like that and who they are as a person. From the studies we can conclude that when mindfulness is practiced in schools it can have range of cognitive, emotional, and social benefits.
According to the study, cognitive skills including the executive functions performed by the brain are highly improved if mindfulness can be practiced among kids. A person’s ability to pay attention, focusing concentration, organizes facts and figures and planning is connected with the executive functions performed by the brain. Data published in a journal for a school that Incorporated mindfulness program of third-standards students over a period of one month shows that overwhelmed development in regulating their behaviours and concentration on the activities at hand compared to a set of students that did not take part in this mindfulness program. According to another study, students participating in six months mindfulness program implemented by school performed better in attention-oriented activities compared to other students. Similarly, it is found in a research based on preschoolers that students following mindfulness curriculum results better in their academic evolution tests. They also manifest better improvements in areas which may lead them to academic success in future.
Emotional health also referred as positive well-being is a vital part of every child’s life. It is the foundation of mental health which is effective to discourage numerous mental issues like:
- Problem related to self esteem
- social interactions
Incorporating mindfulness or being mindful will help students to minimize anxiety and stress at the same time it enhances their positive sense of well-being. Students are expected to feel more optimistic and confident after participating mindfulness program. According to other study preteens who take part in a five week mindfulness program report that they are feeing calm and composed, get better sleep and improve their sense of well-being.
Problem regarding communication and interaction with others can cause difficulties with learning, comprehension, and understanding. If mindfulness is practiced it will improve the skills to result enhanced positivity. One month mindfulness program in an elementary school exhibits that students are more interested in participating class room activities.
Similarly, a mindfulness program helps to build up mutual respect and caring sense among students which can surpass school climate.
It has already been discussed that practicing mindfulness can enhance the child or teen’s ability to control emotions, compassion and empathy. This is accepted by medical experts that mindfulness is an efficient treatment for people having mental health issues like aggression, anxiety, ADHD. Mindfulness is a effective tool to boost self-confidence, improve planning skills, and regulate impulses. If it is implemented properly in schools, mindfulness can decrease the number of “guardian call to principal’s office”, reduce the amount of school bullying and increase attendance record. Mindfulness is nothing but getting children and teens to mirror their own concepts and action and tech team to select the better option. They will not react to things in the environment rather they will respond to them in purposeful ways.
The upshot is, when kids and teens come to learn to regulate their thoughts, feelings, emotion and actions they can automatically improve their decision-making choice and processes.
Techniques to use with infants
Infants as young as 6 to 8 weeks can recognize voices and can sense the presence of their parents/caregivers.
You can use some brilliant techniques to connect with your infants in a mindful way:
- Infant massage. You can start with an infant massage that can help inculcate mindful practice within your baby.
- Give your baby full attention. This doesn’t mean to neglect your own works. But when you’re interacting with your baby, all the factors like the environment, baby’s mood, physical state, and any other clues about their feelings have to be considered.
- Put yourself in your baby’s shoes. Respond to their cries and frustration with kindness and compassionate way — consider how you’d like to be treated if you were crying! Behave likewise.
- Accept your feelings toward parenting. Sleepless nights can be difficult and will make you fill exhausted. Try to remind yourself and understand that your baby isn’t staying awake during the night to bother you.
Techniques to use with toddlers and preschoolers
Meditation with a kid at the age of three is not possible. Mindfulness techniques at this age group include kids to recognize what they’re feeling on the inside before acting out in a negative way.
The best way to start this process is to practice mindfulness yourself. Kids are expected to learn from the environments especially from their parents and caregivers. If you can model awareness and be nonjudgmental this can result a very good impression on your child.
At this age kids don’t have the verbal words to express their emotions. Giving them the language is always effective for them to share the feeling that you can understand. This strategy will help young kids to put attention and honor the felling they are undergoing.
Focus on the senses
Young kids are not aware of all the brain’s functionalities and activities as they relate to mindfulness. Experiential learning process can benefit them. Consider focusing on sense rather than presenting mindfulness as abstract concept. Concentrating on surroundings helps your kinds to establish the connectivity to the environment which can bring their attention to the here and now.
If you question a kid how they are feeling, they will instantly rely “good” or otherwise “not really know”. You can teach them to examine the body and mind providing attention and then move to the next expressing the feelings.
Techniques to use with elementary school-age kids
Children with elementary school going age face many situations that test their emotion, concentration and the capability to deal with situation. At this they can better use techniques to their mindfulness practice.
At this age kids still have problems with traditional meditations. Guided imagery can be useful in this regard to bring their focus in a fun oriented way. If your kids are having difficulties with large exercise, consider starting with something which is short and over the time your child will incorporate this practice.
Connecting the breath with the body movements is considered to be helpful to bring your child’s awareness to the present moment. Yoga is very much effective through which various aspects of meditation, like deep breathing can be incorporated. If you consider trying yoga, be sure to select a safe and calming space for the activity that is free from any distraction.
Eating is a sensory experience. Kids see the food in front of them; smell its flavour feel the taste of the food on their tongues. Practicing mindful eating helps school going kids to build up stamina for stillness.
Collect some candy and have your child close their eyes and place the candy inside their mouth. Instruct them to focus on the candy without chewing them.
If you’re having something melty, like a piece of chocolate, tell them to concentrate on the melting in their mouth for a couple minutes. If you look their focus is drifting away, try to bring them back to the melting chocolate on their tongue.
Another effective way to practice stillness is to play with the idea a bit. This technique can be performed in the classroom or at home. Generally it is not that easy for kids to sit calmly for a long period of time at the very beginning, so put the time slot for just 2 minutes to start with and consider increasing this slot up to 30 minutes as the time progresses.
Have your child sit in a lotus yoga position. Turn on soft lights and play some soothing music. Now while the music is on, motivate your child to concentrate on the music and their breathing after closing their eyes.
They can face some difficulties as they are too little and both of their mind and body are restless. Tell them in a firm yet peaceful voice to stay calm, breathe, and remain still. Last but not the least, consider discussing with your child about how it went.
Techniques to use with teens
At this teen age children become skeptical and resistive trying mindfulness techniques. Here are some useful tips and techniques:
- Space matters. The room in which the teens practiced can play a big impact on their overall experience. Have your teen relax in a place that doesn’t import negative emotions. Consider moving from a classroom to a gym. In your home, this may mean moving to a quiet room away from pesky siblings or handheld devices.
- Play it cool. Teens dislike to be told to practice mindfulness techniques. Instead of that, it’s effective if the idea is represented to them and they get the option to choose whether they want to participate in practicing mindfulness or not. Forcing the idea may backfire. Consider gentle suggestion.
- Model. It’s imperative to practice what you preach. The same is also applicable for the teen as well. If your child is particularly resistive to the idea you are presenting, try your best not to judge it. Leave it to them to participate when they are ready.
- Try a variety of techniques. If traditional meditation doesn’t work for your teen, explore different options, like yoga, body scans, breathing exercises, or guided imagery. Those mentioned techniques don’t matter as much as your teen’s desire to engage.
Example of Mindfulness Activities and Exercises for Children
At the young age children are interested to explore the strength and flexibility of their bodies. It’s a proper age to introduce mindfulness as a valuable tool to them appropriately.
Assist your kids to perform fun poses which helps them to feel strong. Have the kids to go somewhere (safe place) and tell them to do one of the following poses:
- The Superman: Standing on feet wider than the hips, fists clenched, and arms reached out to the sky, stretching the body as tall as possible.
- The Wonder Woman: This pose is practiced by standing tall with legs fists placed on the hips
Through the Safari exercise you can better teach your kids learn mindfulness.
Let the kids know that you are visiting a safari. They need to notice birds, bugs -crawlies, and any other animals. Anything that walks crawls they will need to concentrate all of their senses to find them.
Similar exercise can also be performed with adults which is called mindful walk.
Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to Kids and Teenagers
Here are some useful tips to teach your kids or young one about mindfulness and its important benefits.
- Be sure that they are ready to try mindfulness; if they are full of energetic and prone to outdoor activities, this is not the high time to practice mindfulness.
- Explain the concept of mindfulness and what it relates and what not; draw some examples of what looks similar to mindfulness.
- Explain it in a way which is appropriate to the age, so use words they will can understand easily.
- Promote them to practice mindfulness with them; adopting a model can bring about all the difference.
- If they get off track provide them the assurance and gently guide them back to mindfulness when they realize they are lost.
- Finish the practice by introducing something fun-oriented so that they can enjoy with taking a positive experience.
Tips to help children practice Mindfulness successfully
- Keep in mind the objectives of practicing mindfulness. Engage in mindfulness practice with children in positively, and don’t use it as a disciplinary tool.
- Practice mindfulness yourself!
- Schedule a routine for practicing mindfulness to incorporate the same.
- Environment is the key for successful practice.
- Nominate a different child each day to notify the class at the time of practicing mindfulness – in this way all can participate or get involved.
- Make them understand how mindfulness is applied and practiced in everyday life by sharing your own experiences with the kids and teach them to control when they feel distracted during a mindfulness session.
- Sharing their own experiences should always be entertained, irrespective of good or bad related to mindfulness. At the end with a few students can share the fact how it went for them.
- Practice every day. The more you incorporate mindfulness into the daily life, the more it will help you.
Please find the mentioned script or the mini-lesson which is very innovative to practice mindfulness with your kids.
- Sit quite upright with eyes closed and get into your mindful bodies.
- Soon you are going to hear a sound which you have to concentrate on.
- Ring a “mindfulness bell,” Use a bell with a sustained sound so that it can encourage mindful listening.
- Please raise your hand if you can’t hear the sound.
- When most of the children have raised their hands, instruct them to slowly, mindfully, move their hand to the stomach or chest, and feel your breathing.
- Help your students to concentrate during the breathing uttering the command repetitively, “Just breathing in … just breathing out …”
- Ring the bell to end.
Mindfulness Games and Apps to Support Your Teachings
We are living in a digital age where technology can be used for learning and development and teach children mindfulness.
Mindfulness for Children: Meditations for Kids
This is an application which can be downloaded from play store or apple app store. It has been designed to help children relaxing before bed. Nature sounds and instructions are added when this app is started. The app will instruct the user through a body scan, visuals, and breathing techniques.
Smiling Minds App
Smiling Mind is a popular application for children as young as seven years. This offers exciting features to the Mindfulness for Children, including a body scan activity. There are dozens of modules with hundreds of sessions available.
Mindfulness is a technique that should be practiced every day. Through this it can be a way of life and a constant reminder for kids to concentrate on what is positive in front of them. It helps them to allow their minds to recapitulate things that already elapsed or think about something that is likely to happen in the future. When children and teens adopt practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, they can achieve a positive framework for life and encounter much less stress and anxiety.
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