Mindful Kids: Explaining Mindfulness to a Child
I contributed this post to Empowering Education because it can be challenging to explain mindfulness to a child.
At Mindful Kids we provide children with tools to help them navigate life’s demands and discover peace and calm within themselves. Using our effective N.A.P. strategy (Notice-Accept-Plan), children will learn to pause and notice their feelings. Also, they'll understand why they are experiencing those feelings, and make a positive plan of action using mindfulness.
1. What does mindfulness really mean and why is it beneficial for children?
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment. This includes your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you. Being mindful means being ‘aware.’ So, the opposite of being on Auto-Pilot, when we do things without thinking. When we're aware of what we’re doing and what's going on around us we are living life to the full!
Learning to become more present leads to responding more positively to others or to situations, as we’re in a calmer state of mind. In turn, we are also less reactive. The mindfulness tools you learn as a child become second nature by the time you’re an adult - these are tools for life.
Research shows that practicing mindfulness regularly creates less activity in the Amygdala part of our brain - the fight or flight zone. Reduced activity means that we feel calmer and less reactive. Practicing mindfulness or meditation can actually change the shape of our brain - amazing!
2. Are there challenges that you've had to overcome when explaining mindfulness to children?
Over the years I have learned that in order to practice mindfulness successfully with children it’s vital to think outside the box and welcome new challenges. For example, one teenager I was supporting who was diagnosed with ADHD understandably found it hard sitting still for the breathing practices. I started thinking of ways I could help him. He would benefit from the calming effects of focused breathing but without having to sit still.
Light bulb moment - let's try Tai Chi! I discovered a fabulous teacher in America who taught me her Tai Chi Moves for Kids program via Skype. Now I was able to help this child. He took to Tai Chi like a duck to water. The beauty of this story is that I learned to teach Tai Chi to help him and now many other children are benefitting from it too.
The key takeaway is to ‘follow the child’ or let the child lead you. Empowering Education has a great lesson for plan that will teach students how to use their own bodies for mindfulness. The lesson will give you more tips on fun exercises and tricks to try with kids. Get more information below.
3. What have you found to be the most effective mindfulness tools during lockdown/COVID? Any tips for parents on how to reduce their child’s anxiety?
Reassure children by reminding them that our feelings never stay the same - they change, just like the weather. It’s reassuring to know that if we’re feeling anxious or sad, this won’t last forever.
Remember that we can’t change the past and we can’t force the future so try to stay present and focus on the positives in your life:
- Start a gratitude journal - list whatever you’re grateful for today: health, a phone call from a friend, a hug, a good meal, a sunny day.
- Make a worry box - a useful way of taking a worry out of your head. Reflect on whether it was worth worrying about in the first place - often not!
- Get outdoors - nature reduces the stress hormone Cortisol /decreases heart rate = feeling happy & relaxed. Walk mindfully when you’re in nature, focusing on what you see, hear, smell and touch.
- Breathe - try my ABC breathing or 3:5 breathing at different times of the day. These are useful ways to calm the body and stay on top of how you’re feeling.
- Give kids opportunities to talk to you about how they’re feeling. Take a walk together, share a hot chocolate, or make time for an end of day catch-up. This prevents children from bottling things up.
Try anything creative together such as origami, stone painting, puzzles, or baking. These activities use both sides of the brain helping us feel more balanced and calm.
To discover more about ABC breathing or 3:5 breathing, visit our website.
Follow us on Instagram - @mindful kids London - for mindfulness practices, short meditations, and creative mindfulness activities you can try with your kids.
Mindfulness is taught to children of all ages in private sessions (one to one), through workshops in schools, and at our mindfulness camps. Our camps offer children the chance to connect with nature and themselves through mindful activities such as walking meditations, mandala making, tight-rope walking, and Nature Scavenger Hunts - focusing on the senses. Most of the families we serve are in London, although fortunately through social media we are able to share our ideas with families and teachers across the world.