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Mindfulness in Children

By 5 years of age, most children are heading into kindergarten having learned to polish learning some life skills: getting dressed, taking baths, washing hands, learning how to write, riding a bike and so on.  As it turns out, it is possible to begin to teach mindfulness in children and some meditation.

It is a good idea to instill this concept as a daily habit rather than using it during times of stress.  Practice is key to becoming more proficient, and can be incorporated into daily routines or activities, such as when playing outside, drawing or painting, and when doing bedtime reading.  Help children feel new feelings and sensations, even if the moment may seem neutral at the time.  It’s amazing how easily pleasantness can pop up after a few minutes.

Children like to copy parents so it’s a clever idea for parents to be role models for them.  Practice mindfulness yourself in front of them and with them.  It’s possible that at the beginning, while you are seated in a relaxed position, maybe even in a yoga pose with your eyes closed, your child may not know what you are doing (there may be even some laughing and giggling) but will be curious and learn from there.

As kids grow older, life becomes more challenging as they begin to experience the loss of control and have set backs.  They may even find adversity in the school playground or classroom.  It is easy to lose grip of the moment to the point that it threatens the sense of self.  It is at this point that kids begin to question their worth and their strength.  A simple exercise to incorporate into the practice of mindfulness is with the mnemonic RAIN (The New York Times, 2017):

  • R (Recognize): Acknowledge the moment in a calm, accepting manner
  • A (Accept): Allow the moment to be what it is without changing it right away
  • I (Investigate): Be in touch with your feelings and see how you feel
  • N (Non-Identification): Realize the sensations and feelings will soon pass and do not define you.

Here are some phone apps that can be helpful to kids (from iPhone Magazine and Psychology Today).   You may need to be involved initially to help them explore the app:

  • Smiling Mind (www.smilingmind.com.au). Produced by non-profit organization in Australia, a good beginner’s tool to help children develop awareness of how their body feels.
  • Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame (www.sesamestreetincommunities.org). Good for young kids to learn the concept of calming down through breathing.
  • Headspace (www.headspace.com/kids). Uses cartoons to teach how meditation works.  It has a lot of guided meditations in different areas, even incorporating sports and health.  Focuses on calm, kindness and bedtime.  Can be customized to children < 5 years, 6 to 8, 9 to 12, and adult version.
  • Calm (www.calm.com). Helps children relax and restore themselves after a full day of running around.  Has sounds like ocean waves and wind that kids may like to listen to.  It has sleep stories to read to kids to help them relax and sleep better.
  • Three Good Things (www.threegoodthingsaday.com). This app is actually a journal that helps children focus on the positive of life by writing 3 good things that went well that day, and therefore practicing gratitude.

As kids grow into their pre-teen and teenage years, it will become important for them to understand that either good or adverse moments, bringing either happiness or sadness/frustration/anger, do not define them.  By practicing mindfulness and meditation, they can go deeper into who they are and what they want in life.   Tune in for the next article on Mindfulness for Teenagers!

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