The Power Of Mindfulness
Parents are increasingly sending their kids for mindfulness classes to help them focus better, but what exactly is mindfulness? It’s a whole body and mind state of being aware and undistracted in the present moment. It focuses attention on the present instead of looking back on the past or worrying about the future.
Being mindful is a skill and like all skills, it can be strengthened through practice. We can develop it through meditation or actively using our senses in everyday activities such as conversation, listening to music, or even eating.
There have been studies that show mindfulness can help kids improve their ability to pay attention, to calm down when they’re upset, make better decisions, and to show compassion and empathy – which parent would shy away from benefits like those?!
Practice What You Preach
Before you can actually teach your kids the art of mindfulness, you should be able to practice it on your own too; you don’t need to be a master of it, but at least to have a simple understanding of what mindfulness is. It’s like helping them with math or science homework – if you don’t really know what those topics are, you can’t help them with their homework that well, right?
Here’s a simple way to practice mindfulness for beginners:
- Find a nice and quiet spot at home and take a seat there. You can sit on the floor, on the chair, on your bed in any position that you’re comfortable with
- Set a time limit; if you’re just starting out, a good time would be 5 – 10 minutes
- Remain comfortable and at ease while you’re sitting down, you should straighten your back, but don’t keep it stiff
- You don’t need to close your eyes, but if you feel like it, you may close them to help you better focus
- Pay attention to and feel your breath going in and out
- Your mind will wander and your attention will be drawn away from your breath, and that’s alright. When you notice that happening, just bring your attention back to your breath
- Don’t judge yourself for losing attention or what you’re thinking about. Don’t let those thoughts run through your mind, and just bring your focus back to your breath
Try to do this at least once a day. But if you have time to do it twice a day, it’ll be a lot better – once before work, and once after.
Teaching Our Kids Mindfulness
Mindfulness won’t completely get rid of tantrums, whining, and screaming, but teaching our kids mindfulness could help with them. We’re giving them the skills to develop their awareness of themselves and their surroundings, to identify and understand the different types of emotions that arise, and to give them the tools to control their impulses.
Firstly, we need to explain what mindfulness is to our kids, and it’s a pretty big concept to wrap their minds around. A simple way to describe mindfulness is awareness – awareness of our thoughts, feelings, body, and things that are happening around us in this moment right now.
Using what you already know about practicing mindfulness, here are some ways that Sarah Beach of LeftBrainBuddha found helpful in teaching her kids mindfulness:
- Listen to the bell – an easy way for kids to practice mindfulness is to focus their attention on what they can hear. You can use a singing bowl, a bell, some chimes, or a phone app that has sounds on it. Tell your kids that you will make the sound, and they should listen carefully until they can no longer hear the sound (which will usually take 30 seconds to a minute). This exercise is a fun way to teach them to pay attention to their surroundings!
- Practice with a breathing buddy – for young kids, asking them to “pay attention to the breath” can be difficult to follow. What you can do instead is to give them a “breathing buddy” – a soft toy! Get your kids to lie on their back and then place the soft toy on their belly and ask them to focus their attention on the rising and falling of the soft toy as they breathe in and out.
- Have mindful walks – when you’re out and about with your family, try to notice things that you haven’t noticed before. Designate a minute or two to remain completely silent and simply pay attention and appreciate the sights we can see and the sounds we can hear.
- Establish a gratitude practice – gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness, and teaching our kids to appreciate and be thankful of the abundance in their lives instead of focusing on all the toys and goodies that they crave is important. Perhaps during dinner.
- Make a Mind Jar – a mind jar is like a snow globe, but filled with glitter instead. It’s a DIY project where you fill a clear glass or plastic jar with water, and add in glitter! Try to get some slightly heavier glitter so it won’t float to the top. When it’s ready, let your kid shake it and watch the glitter swirl around. Get them to focus on their breaths while they watch the glitter settle down.
Remember to keep it simple and easy to understand, and also fun enough for your kids to enjoy doing!
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