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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ashley Jacobson

"How to Foster Mindfulness in Children: Strategies for Cultivating Inner Peace and Emotional Wellness"


mindfulness in children

When people think of mindfulness, they may think of meditation, however, there are many different ways to achieve mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness has many benefits for kids, adults, and families. Parents, if you have a child that has difficulty regulating their emotions, experiences anxiety, or other mood symptoms, they may benefit from incorporating mindfulness into their everyday routine.


What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment, without judging or trying to change it. It involves observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, without getting caught up in them. The key elements of mindfulness are awareness and acceptance. Awareness occurs when you are able to notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they happen. The goal with awareness is not to stop thinking, but to become aware of your experiences, rather than becoming lost in them. The second element of acceptance occurs when you are able to notice your experience without judging or trying to change it. For example, if you notice that you are feeling anxious, you would want to make a statement such as “ I notice that I am feeling anxious.” Some other examples of acting mindfully may be when someone is listening to a song they love and noticing every detail of the sound. Or if experiencing anxiety surrounding a big test, being able to acknowledge that feeling and simply accepting it is another example of mindfulness. Using mindfulness can help to improve emotional awareness and reduce stress.


mindfulness in children

How Parents Can Help Their Child Practice Mindfulness

Parents can help their child achieve mindfulness by modeling mindfulness themselves or by teaching their child to focus on the present moment. When introducing mindfulness techniques, it is important to focus on doing one technique well, rather than trying to do too many at once. Below are some mindfulness techniques that you can practice with your child, with a goal of incorporating them into their everyday routine.


Five Senses Exercise

In the morning, after your child wakes up, it could be helpful to start the morning with a five senses exercise, in which you take a few moments in the morning to explore through your senses. This would include taking turns naming things you see, hear, feel, taste and smell. During this exercise, you should try to have your child to notice things that they may normally tune out, like the distant buzzing of traffic outside, or the softness of their blanket.


Body Scan

Another helpful technique in the morning is completing a body scan. During this exercise, you have your child notice the sensations that they are feeling in their body, starting with their toes and working their way up to the top of their head. For example, you may state, “notice the feeling of clothing resting on your legs, tension in your muscles, or cool air on your face.”


Mindful Check In & Mindful Eating

Mindfulness can also be incorporated during meal times. To begin with, meal time is a good opportunity for a mindful check-in. During this time, parents can start a conversation about the here and now by asking their child to share one thing they are feeling physically, one thing they are thinking about, and one thing they are feeling emotionally. If your child has difficulty putting their emotions into words, you can provide them with a few options to choose from. During the actual meal, the entire family can practice mindful eating. Often times, especially when schedules are busy, we can tend to rush through a meal. With mindful eating, the goal is to eat slowly and mindfully. To achieve this, you want to notice how the food looks and how it smells. This can be done by having discussions about what the food tastes like, noticing the textures, etc. The family can take turns sharing what they notice about the food they are eating. ‘


Activities for Car Rides

Sometimes car rides, traveling, and commuting to school a can be stressful situations for kids. A couple of mindful activities that can be incorporated include playing I spy or The Alphabet Game. During I Spy, your child will “spy” something that they see and ask you to guess what it is. The Alphabet Game asks for the child to look for words in their environment beginning with each letter of the alphabet, in order. Playing these games allows your child to take in their surroundings and notice things they might miss.


Square Breathing

In the school setting, your child might benefit from incorporating square breathing. This is a breathing technique in which they breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 2 seconds and breathe out for 4 seconds. This is a strategy that can easily be done in the classroom. Check out our Beginners Guide to Deep Breathing to learn about additional breathing strategies.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Bedtime can also be a time to utilize mindfulness and help your child wind down for the night. To help with this, you can teach your child progressive muscle relaxation. This exercise will help your child become aware of the sensations throughout their body. To do this, you have your child squeeze and relax each of the muscles in their body one by one and they should hold each squeeze for about 5 seconds. After each squeeze, you should ask your child to pay attention to how it feels when they relax. This is a great strategy to help the body begin to relax before sleep.


mindfulness in children

When To Seek Additional Support

If you are a parent and are having a challenging time incorporating mindfulness into your child’s routine or if your child is experiencing anxiety, depression or other mood symptoms, they may benefit from individual therapy that incorporate mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is a popular component to many types of therapy and has been a useful tool for helping in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and relieving stress. It has also been suggested by multiple meta-analyses that the positive effects are maintained long term (Davis, 2011). Mindfulness can also be a strategy that is used in treatment by facilitating the use of other coping skills. For example, if your child is experiencing anger, they may be more likely to use a relaxation skill if they are mindful of their emotions and able to identify their anger early/know the warning signs. This is an area (emotion identification) that your child could learn and practice in therapy.


Reference

Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J.A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy, 48(2), pp. 198-208



 


At Balanced Minds Psychology & Wellness we specialize in assisting individuals navigating life’s challenges. To learn more about me and the services I provide, checkout my profile. If you are ready to start the therapy process, contact us today to start a free consultation.



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