Stress and anxiety are inevitable and no one is immune including children. Among the things that contribute to stress include school work, long working hours, unmet deadlines, spending too much time on the phone, email alerts, text message from a friend, and many other distractions that can prevent you from focusing and being productive. Mindfulness meditation helps to relieve stress and anxiety, and it is good for both adults and children. Practicing mindfulness is a good way to relax and it is known to have immense mental and physical health benefits.
Having said that, how can parents and teachers share mindfulness with children? In this article, you are going to gain insights on how to do exactly that.
Tips for Parents and Teachers
Set an example by practicing it yourself
Practicing mindfulness is the first step of teaching mindfulness exercises to children because when they observe you doing it, they will be more willing to do it themselves. Therefore, apart from practicing mindfulness where the kids can see you, you may also want to show them your mindfulness meditation journal, if you have one. In addition, you can always encourage the kids to ask questions about your mindfulness activities.
Another advantage of starting with yourself is that you get to know which mindfulness exercises you like and those that are good for kids. Mindfulness exercises are also a good way of taking care of yourself and it can help you to relieve burnout and fatigue, thus being able to extend that care to the kids.
Invite them to join you
After some time, you can invite your kids or students to join you, but remember to be patient if they do not show interest. Should they agree to practice with you, it is advisable that you keep the initial session short and gradually increase the minutes as they get used to the practice. The secret of maintaining their interest is to be supportive and positive regardless of whether they are doing it right or not. If your children or students do not respond as per your expectations, learn to let go instead of forcing them.
See also: The benefits of mindfulness for kids
It is important to always remember that you are dealing with young children who may not understand the mindfulness jargon. Therefore, avoid using words like mindfulness and instead use simple words that the kids can understand such as feeling, listening, being aware, and noticing.
Keep it practical
Doing one mindfulness exercise at a time is better than multi-tasking. In other words, one mindfulness activity is often more engaging and you’re likely to exercise more care and be more efficient than when you multi-task. Therefore, practicality is all about paying attention to one thing at time in the here and now, and you should avoid the temptation to eat or text, for example.
Make mindfulness a routine
Making mindfulness meditation a day to day routine helps children to accept it as a classroom or home culture. For instance, a parent can incorporate a mindfulness activity in the bedtime ritual or during dinner. Teachers can engage children in mindfulness practice after tea break to help them calm down and get back into class mood. In addition, creating a routine makes mindfulness a topic that kids at home and in school can easily talk about, and easily practice without feeling coerced.
When conducting a mindfulness activity, it is always advisable to put down or switch of your television, your laptop, phone or tablet. This helps to ensure that you’re not only present and listening to what your child is telling you, but that you are making eye contact.
You may also want to encourage your children to just take a nap, draw, or read a book, which can be quite relaxing more so without the interference of electronic devices or noises. The idea is to quietly engage in an activity that will allow you to be present in the here and now, or in the moment.
Take a walk
Going outside is a good way of practicing mindfulness meditation because it enables children or students to listen to their surroundings. It is important that you also listen to whatever is going on around you so that even as you ask the kids what they heard or saw, you will be able to gauge whether you had the same experience. You can listen to the birds chirping, watch the trees swaying in the wind, or look at the clouds moving and changing.
Smelling their surrounding is also a good way of encouraging children to engage in mindfulness meditation through smell. Therefore, you can ask them to breathe in deeply and then tell you what they smell and how the smell makes them feel.
Keep it fun
The best way to make mindfulness meditation fun is to engage the children in an activity that they will enjoy. It can be any activity like singing simple songs, to simple breathing activities, to playing games, to drawing or even practicing yoga. Keeping the activity fun helps to ensure that children focus in the moment with purpose.
It is important to note that short mindfulness activities are more effective for most children. However, some children can engage in longer sessions, dependent on their age and personality. In addition, you may notice that your children or students are uneasy during the initial sessions, or unable to engage in mindfulness practice. Therefore, it is important that you encourage them to keep trying and acknowledge their efforts. To encourage your children to participate, it is important that you make the experience memorable by maybe creating sometime afterwards to hear how their experience was. Regularly practicing will certainly make the children accustomed and more receptive to the various techniques.