Mindfulness has become a popular topic, and for a good reason. As adults are becoming increasingly busy and scheduled, so are our kids. We are constantly running from one activity to the next sometimes with little time to sit down and enjoy a meal together as a family. Taking time to slow down, be mindful of our thoughts and surroundings, and practice self-care is an important part of our health and well being.
Mindfulness is often associated with meditation in adults. However, there are several ways to practice mindfulness, and now children are starting to join in these practices. Teachers and guidance counselors are starting to discuss mindfulness in school and children’s yoga is a popular activity for children of all ages. Practicing mindfulness at home is a great way to help your kids become more aware of their surroundings, their feelings, and increase focus.
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What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention to your body, thoughts, and surroundings. It is being in the present moment, letting go of the past and worries about the future. Mindfulness is accepting yourself, your current situation, and the people around you.
Mindfulness is not a strategy for discipline, being calm (although it often causes one to be calm), or stopping thoughts. Mindfulness is not EASY! It takes a lot of practice.
Benefits of mindfulness:
Research has shown that mindfulness can decrease cases of ADHD, anxiety, aggressive behaviors, and depression in children while increasing calmness, self-regulation, self-awareness, focus, executive function, well-being, and empathy. Wow!
How can you practice mindfulness with your kids?
Children have short attention spans so keep any mindfulness practices at home to less than ten minutes. Be flexible and meet them where they are. Don’t push mindfulness practices on a child who doesn’t want to participate. Take it one day at a time and be patient. Just like with adults, the more children engage in mindfulness practices, the more comfortable they will get with them.
Here are five ways to practice mindfulness at home:
Journals – Journals are an excellent way for children to reflect on their feelings and be present in the moment. Spending 5-10 minutes thinking about their day and connecting with their feelings will help develop emotionally intelligent children.
Meditation – Meditation is about sitting still and focusing your mind. It can be challenging for everyone, especially children. Try meditating with your children for one minute per day and slowly increase the time as you feel comfortable. There are many apps to help walk you through meditation including Insight Timer, Stop Breathe and Think, and Smiling Mind.
Yoga – Yoga is a wonderful way for children and adults to spend some time connecting with their minds and bodies. Search for local children’s yoga classes in your area or find yoga videos on YouTube. Cosmic Kids Yoga is a great children’s yoga series that is found on YouTube and AmazonPrime. You can find the cute yoga mats in the picture above on Amazon. We attempt to spend 5 minutes at the end each day doing some yoga poses, but it all depends on if my kids are feeling up to it. Practicing mindfulness with children requires a lot of flexibility.
Mindfulness Jar – Mindfulness jars (also called calming jars) are an effective way to help children soothe themselves and work through their emotions. Simply take a clear bottle or jar, add warm water, food coloring and glitter. When children need a few minutes to calm themselves, suggest they spend a few minutes in their mindfulness corner with their jar. As they shake the jar and watch the glitter slowly fall to the bottom it will help to calm and focus their minds. This is a great article from mindful.org on how to create and use a mindfulness jar.
Express Gratitude – Gratitude allows us to celebrate the moment and has many health and social benefits. There are many ways to practice gratitude. You can use a journal, have a daily gratitude box, discuss gratitude at the dinner table, and write appreciation notes to others. Simply expressing gratitude for the small things you observe in your everyday life will make a huge impact over time.
To find more resources to practice mindfulness in your home check out Mindfulness Resources for Parents and Kids.