Mindfulness is a relatively new field of positive psychology, which promotes sensory awareness and being present in the moment. You may have seen the term in the media of recent, as many people are struggling with anxiety in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But mindfulness is more than just a buzzword. Practicing it as routine has been proven to lower anxiety and depression, especially in people who tend to over analyse and worry excessively.
If your little one has inherited your habit of over worrying, it may be time to introduce them to the idea of mindfulness. While they may not be able to grasp the concept in full, you can talk them through what it means to be present and thoughtful in their lives. Try to use as few words as possible to explain to avoid overwhelming them and be sure to set a good example. If you are constantly tense and worried, they will be too.
Once you have introduced the idea of mindfulness, follow through with a few simple activities. You may have to adjust these according to your child's age and ability to sit still for extended periods and if they are unresponsive to the activity, leave it be. There is no sense in forcing your child to do something that may only be making them more anxious.
It may also take them some time to warm up to the idea of being mindful. Children are always on the go and it may be difficult for them to understand why you want them to sit still and think about their emotions. However, by making it part of their daily routine, whether it's when they wake up or just before bed, they should begin to appreciate their quiet time.
This simple exercise is one we should all be doing. Teach your children how to breathe in deep and exhale through their mouths to release tension and bring them back to a sense of calm. Get them to lie on their back with their hands crossed over their bellies. Ask them to breathe in deeply, noticing the way their diaphragm expands and deflates. Do this exercise for ten seconds or more each day to help them become more aware of their breathing.
Grounding techniques work to bring us out of our minds and into the present moment. When you notice your child becoming anxious or frustrated, ask them to name five things they can see, hear, touch or taste around them. You can also incorporate tactile exercises, like playing with Play Doh or digging in the garden, to improve their sensory reactions.
Speaking of the garden, when last did you take a walk around yours to admire all the wonders nature brings? Ask the kids to join you for an outdoor adventure each morning, getting them to name as many flower and plant species as they can. Sit on the grass with them for a few minutes, taking time to notice the sounds the birds make, the way the wind blows and how the sun is shining. Teach them to appreciate these small gifts and to respect nature.
Younger children often find it difficult to express their emotions verbally. Ask your little one to draw how they are feeling, teaching them words like happy, sad, excited, frustrated and bored. Older kiddies should also appreciate a good creative session. You can incorporate calming music, asking them to notice how the rhythm of the music affects their heart rate and the tension in their body.
Even in lockdown, you may not always have the time to guide your child through mindfulness exercises. This is where apps like Stop, Breathe & Think come in handy. Download the app onto your smartphone or tablet and let the kids discover their sense of quiet and calm. Mindfulness apps are also great for stubborn teens who may be averse to you helping them find their inner zen.
Yes, kids can do yoga, too. If you are a dedicated yogi, invite them to join you for a session. It's a great way to get in some exercise together and practice your deep breathing technique. Plus, your kids will probably be fascinated by all the funky poses. Once lockdown is over, enroll them in a kiddies' yoga class to keep them on the path to mindfulness.
Are you ready to try out these mindfulness exercises with your kids? Let us know how it goes!