Mindfulness for Children
For better concentration and relaxation, mindful practices for children are trending for good reason.
“Mindfulness” means to pay attention. Many times, children are surprised to learn that they can actually get better at paying attention. The focus can change. It can be on your schoolwork, your breath, the way your body moves or even the sensation of your feelings.
In many schools across America, mindfulness programs are replacing detention or simply being implemented to enhance students’ abilities to cope with stress and to foster better concentration. A local expert weighs in on her inspiration and success with this program.
For Kate Kill, of the Himalayan Institute, it was her own children who inspired this program because she noticed that in a supportive environment, developing the art of paying attention makes life more comfortable and enjoyable. She contends that the present moment always has a lot more to offer than we usually realize.
Kate found that, especially with the prevalence of technology, our constant engagement with everything around us pulls us away from how we feel and how things are affecting us. Things happen fast and we barely have time to process one situation before another one pops up. As much as we deal with things outside of us, we should tend to our inner world. By paying attention, we will naturally gravitate towards a healthier lifestyle that makes us feel good, inside and out.
The teenage years, especially, are full of change and there can be stress in transition. Mindfulness can help students manage school, social situations and increased independence and responsibility. Truly, this is a practice that is useful to all ages and stages of life.
Kate ensures that the kids have fun with the exercises and we build trust to move into deeper, more difficult issues. The children learn little at a time when they are feeling out of balance and use the tools that they learn to calm themselves. Simple practices used consistently can make a big difference.
Practicing Mindfulness at Home:
Mindfulness can start with encouraging your children to give their full attention to the task at hand. Guide them to use all five senses (or as many as possible) when they do small chores, eat and take care of their personal hygiene. For example, brushing your teeth can be a great opportunity for mindfulness. Feeling the brush on each one of the teeth, noticing the taste and smell of the toothpaste. Notice the sounds that the brush makes in different areas of the mouth. As they expand their capacity for paying attention, you can start to bring the focus to something internal- the feeling of their body resting on the floor or their breath.
It’s definitely helpful to reduce distractions. Children can be self-conscious if someone else in the family is around when they are doing their practice. Also, if there are other activities or friends around, they may decide they was to participate in that instead of being mindful. Some sounds and other distractions will always be around and in that case, you can bring mindfulness to them. For example, a bird singing outside or the touch of air on your skin.
Play the Quiet Game:
A wonderful game for warmer weather is to take younger children outside. Have them close their eyes and count quietly on their fingers all of the different sounds that they hear. Give it at least one to two full minutes as new sounds will arise. Play with them. You may be surprised at all that you become aware of. Playing this game in different settings can attune you all to your surroundings.
For the teens in your life, there are many guided meditations apps that they can use on their own and have at their fingertips when dealing with particularly challenging situations or to incorporate into their daily routine. Some of the most popular are Sattva, Calm and Headspace.