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For one second, just imagine having kids that go to bed when you tell them to, who eat all their dinner without negotiating over broccoli and who NEVER throw tantrums in the middle of the supermarket that embarrass you to your core.
Although it sounds like the ultimate parenting pipe-dream, according to research, there could be one very simple way to make this happen…
Mindfulness For Kids
Mindfulness has been steadily gaining popularity across Ireland, as more and more adults engage in the practice which encourages us to pay attention to our emotions and live in the moment without judgement.
Although the research on mindfulness with children is not yet as extensive as with adults, the results are promising and show that mindfulness has an incredible positive impact on the physical, social, emotional and mental health of young people.
In a 2012 study, it was concluded that well-conducted mindfulness sessions can decrease anxiety, stress, reactivity and bad behaviour. It can also improve sleep, self-esteem and help young people better manage their emotions.
It can also profoundly alter cognitive function and help children concentrate at school, enhance memory and problem solving skills and help them sort their knowledge.
In adolescents it can help reduce negative emotions. In a trial carried out by Liehr and Diaz (2010) among 18 minority and disadvantaged children, those who took part in mindfulness interventions saw a significant reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms.
Tips For Practicing Mindfulness With Children
As children tend to be more open to new experiences, it’s easy to introduce mindfulness to younger people. The key is to keep it as simple as possible.
If necessary, try not to use the word mindfulness or bring it to them as a ‘concept’. Instead, focus more on practices and exercises that are easy for kids to get their heads around and integrate into their everyday life.
Ensure that mindfulness is already a firm and consistent part of your daily life. If you’re more confident with your practice, it will be easier to introduce it to your children.
Also, be conscious of your expectations. One quick mindfulness activity won’t banish the tantrums overnight but, over time, it will help children become aware of their emotions and how to deal with them.
9 Fun Ways To Introduce Mindfulness To Your Kids
- Practice gratitude
Mindfulness doesn’t have to consist of lengthy and intense meditation sessions or getting through a reading list of positive thinking books. With kids, you should always start small. One idea is to urge your kids to say what they’re thankful for at the end of every day and share your own thoughts to give them confidence in the act. Gratitude is a cornerstone of mindfulness and can help enrich your quality of life. It can help teach children early on that there are positive moments in every day.
2. Mindfulness colouring books
If your child has a flare for art, purchase some mindfulness colouring books to complete as a family in the evening. These books are filled with calming designs that get progressively more challenging. They often require a deeper level of thought than traditional colouring books and can help decrease stress and stimulate creativity.
3. Feeling time
After a particularly hard day at school, take some time aside to talk to your children about their emotions. Ask them how they feel mentally and get them to describe how this makes their body feel. Understanding how your emotions impact your physicality is an important part of mindfulness, which helps you break down negative thoughts and understand that they are temporary.
4. YouTube videos
When it comes to learning a new skill, our children often look to YouTube first for tutorials and information from their favourite internet personalities. YouTube has a wealth of great mindfulness videos aimed at kids, which the whole family can watch together.
With most of our little ones glued to mobiles and tablets 24/7 you can use apps to make mindfulness more appealing to technically minded kids. As well as online versions of mindfulness colouring books, there are loads of popular meditation apps.
Headspace is one of the most notable, with over one million downloads among adults. Headspace also have a kids version with breathing exercises and visualisations that help them relax and teach them the basics of mindfulness.
6. Bed time body scans
For kids that have a little trouble falling asleep, body scanning can be extremely effective for making children feel much more relaxed and ready to drop off when their head hits the pillow.
At bed time, get your kids to lie flat on their back and guide them through their own body from their head to their toes. Ask them to feel every part of their body, squish it (tense the muscles) and let go. There are also many guided body scanning videos on trusty old YouTube to get you and your kids more familiar with the idea.
This practice will teach you and your child more about how they carry tension in their body and how to release it.
7. Mindfulness walks
If you like to take a little family stroll every now and again, you can easily turn it into a ‘mindfulness walk’ by stopping to notice things you’ve never seen or heard before; whether it’s a tree or the sound of the town clock ringing.
Even walking in complete silence for a few moments can give your children the opportunity to relax and soak up their natural surroundings without even realising that they’re practicing mindfulness.
8. Mindful eating
Mindful eating can help children who have fussy tendencies or are picky with their food. Mindful eating can begin with toddlers to instil a healthy and positive relationship with food from the outset.
Talk about food with your children and get them to touch the ingredients and get involved with meal preparation and shopping.
Show them that there is no right or wrong way to eat food but enjoyment and feeling nourished are the most important factors. Be patient and try not to have too many rules when it comes to eating.
Also, show your child that trying new things is fun in order to eliminate fear around particular ingredients – specifically vegetables.
9. Mindfulness classes
To place much more emphasis on mindfulness, you can contact your local community group or search in your area for mindfulness classes for parents and children.
Not only will these help your children better understand the purpose of mindfulness, but seeing other children engaging in mindfulness will make them feel much more at ease and willing to immerse themselves in it.
And, if you’re especially passionate about mindfulness for children, you can also contact your child’s school, about integrating mindfulness into learning.
Killeen National School in County Mayo, was featured in the press in 2016 for being one of the first local schools to introduce the concept to its 68 pupils through the Mindfulness Matters programme. Children as young as ten from the school said they loved the activities which made them feel more relaxed and ‘in the moment’.
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