Mindfulness is a powerful tool for decreasing stress, dealing with anxiety, improving concentration and other general health benefits.
While mindfulness is a word you hear often these days, many people still find the concept a little confusing so we’re here to give you a basic crash course on mindfulness. Many adults find that practicing mindfulness helps them relax and deal with the stresses of life. But did you know it’s also a wonderful tool for kids, and it can help bring children and caregivers closer.
First, let’s start with a simple definition of mindfulness.
- the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
- a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
This video does a great job of explaining the concept, for kids and adults, and we have a video at the end of the post if you want to keep exploring the topic:
One misconception of mindfulness or general meditation, is that you must “clear your mind.” This is almost impossible. Instead, mindfulness is being aware of the present moment. Thoughts and feelings pop into our heads all the time—worrying about paying a bill or a burst of road rage. Through a practice of mindfulness, you can begin to be more aware of these feelings as they arise and deal with them in a positive, healthy way.
Simple mindfulness exercises:
- Breathing, taking a moment to just breathe and focus on your breath.
- Being still and quiet.
- Noticing how you feel in each moment.
Rachael Bain-Chase, Outreach and Education Director, is a counselor who uses mindfulness in her work with adults and children, as well as in her own personal life. She says it can be difficult for adults to sit for 10 minutes and meditate in this way, let alone children, but it gets easier with practice. Rachael offers a few ways that you can engage with your child and learn to be mindful together:
- Have a moment of mindfulness in the morning or evening, perhaps right before the children go off to school, or during a bedtime routine.
- Read one of the books listed below and do the fun little exercises together.
- Explore different apps that are available, like Headspace or Stop, Breathe & Think that offer exercises and guidance.
These moments may seem small, but they can have a very positive impact on your brain and your mental health. As parents, we’re often telling kids what to do, where to go, how to behave. It’s really good to create these moments for a positive connection with your child—a short mindfulness routine can help change the pattern.
When Rachael worked with daycare centers, she would work on “mindful movement” with very small children. She called them “Funky poses” and it was a fun way to introduce mindfulness and awareness to little ones who naturally have trouble sitting still. She would teach them a pose or a movement, and the children would hold it for a short time. Doing a specific movement, holding a pose, and paying special attention just to your body’s movement is wonderful way for children (and adults!) to begin practicing mindfulness.
So, it’s a great skill for kids. It helps them slow down, identify what they’re feeling, and recognize patterns of how thoughts and feelings pop up out of nowhere.
But what’s in it for you as a parent? How about this: happiness, feeling relaxed, being present with yourself and your family! Happier parent, happier kids. Start a mindfulness practice and learn some new techniques for managing stress and anxiety. You’ll be glad you did.