May has been my month of mindfulness. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I've found some favourite mindfulness books and learnt a lot. I'm eating better, I've made it to yoga regularly and I'm feeling calm, focused and relaxed.
It's got me thinking. How can I spread mindfulness to my family? How can I teach my kids to have a mindful mindset now, in primary and preschool, so that they can reap the benefits for the many years to come?
Mr 7 uses the Smiling Mind app already and Mr 4 does 'meditation' at preschool (I think they lie quietly on the floor for a few minutes to give the educators a break.) Both boys are aware of mindfulness but I want to teach them the importance of staying 'in the moment' and not letting their thoughts and worries run away with them. I want to know how to help them make mindfulness their every day lifelong practice.
So I did some research and this is what I learnt:
The benefits of mindfulness for kids
- There is evidence that primary school kids who practice five minutes of meditation a day are more resilient and more focused, with better task concentration.
- Mindfulness practice can help kids reduce anxiety and stress by helping them to manage their emotions and remain calm ahead of difficult events.
- Regular mindfulness can improve behaviour and self esteem.
- Kids who learn to be mindful have greater self awareness and empathy.
So far so good but...
How do I teach my kids to be mindful?
Mindfulness is more than meditation and a few minutes of 'quiet time'. Mindfulness is being present, right here, right now. Being mindful is being focused on what we feel, hear, see and experience at any given moment. It's being aware of our bodies and our surroundings and it's having control of our mind; being able to bring our attention back to what's in front of us when we're getting carried away with 'what ifs' and 'when wills' and 'whys' and 'why nots'.
For kids, mindfulness practice is really reminding them to do what they do naturally - to stay in the moment - and encouraging them to keep doing it.
How to practice mindfulness with little kids: (from Kids Matter)
- Give them your full attention when speaking with them
- Give them a mindful hug
- Take them outside, get them to close their eyes, place different objects in their hands and ask them to describe and name the object using only touch
- Move slowly and ask them to mirror your movements, then change roles.
How to practice mindfulness with bigger kids:
- Mindful hearing. Ask bigger kids to pause and be aware of the sounds in their environment. You can use a guided meditation like this one or just pause when you're out and about and prompt them to listen. What can they hear? Ask them to pick out as many sounds as possible. Then ask them how they feel after that minute or two of mindfulness.
- Mindful breathing. An awareness of breath is the basic skill underlying most meditation. This is a great exercise that you might like to try with bigger kids at bedtime. Ask them to lie still with hands on belly and closed eyes. Suggest that they take a slow, steady breath and imagine that breath travelling through their bodies down to their toes and back up through their bodies as they breath out. Repeat this for five in and out breaths. This is a great relaxation exercise as well as mindfulness practice.
Practice what you preach
Mindfulness is a lived experience. We need to do it to know it and benefit from it. We also need to practice it ourselves if we want our kids to follow our lead.
Other useful resources
The more I researched the more great tips I found for making mindfulness fun for kids. Check these out.
Mindful Monkey Happy Panda is a great book for the little people.
Smiling Mind is a fantastic app.
And Janet Etty-Leal's Meditation Capsules is chock full of resources for parents and schools.
Do you have tips for teaching mindfulness to kids? Share them below!
Mindful kids is a great segue to my next monthly blog series on Positive Kids. Over the next four weeks I will be covering positive psychology in education, kids and screen time, sibling bickering and how you can be a hero to your kids. I'll be writing another piece for Planning with Kids and I'll share a heap of fun and interesting child and parenting related research based tips and articles on Facebook. If you want to stay in touch and get it delivered straight to your inbox you can subscribe here.