Teaching your child about mindfulness can really help them to manage stress, focus, control their emotions and have a generally more positive outlook on life.
But firstly, you may be thinking - what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a sort of meditation, where you focus on how you are feeling and thinking in the moment, using methods such as breathing and imagery with zero judgement. Basically, it allows you to really be in tune with your body and emotions, and to speak it freely without being afraid of what other people may say. It's a comfortable, safe space.
Can you teach a child mindfulness?
In short - yes. When your child is old enough to express how they are feeling and have a basic understanding of whats going on their other people's emotions, they should be ready to start practising mindfulness.
How do you practise mindfulness with a child?
There's all sorts of things you can do at home with your child, here's a few ideas to get you started:
Quiet your minds - Having a bit of a "brain break" can be really beneficial for children, especially during stressful times. Take a 3-5 minute break to just sit quietly, calm down, breathe properly and focus on the positive things can help to hit that reset button, and can put your child in a much better mood to focus and get something done. You can do this in between homework, before bedtime, in the bath, or anywhere that they might feel peaceful.
Talk about food - This one can be much more fun for the family. Taking the time to really taste and talk about what your taste buds are experiencing around the dinner table can be beneficial for your children. This will help them to develop conversational skills, and have a much healthier relationship with food than when they sit mindlessly in front of the TV. There's lots of research to suggest that this benefits people of all ages, and as adults will help us to slow down, focus on what we're eating, enjoy it more, and recognise when we are full instead of wolfing down a plate of food in silence.
Walk and talk - Getting out for a half hour walk in the day can be a great tool for mindfulness. As you walk, ask your child (or yourself) what they can hear? What does that make them feel or think about? Do they remember a time when they were laughing like the children in the park too? Do they remember a time they ate chips that smelt like the chip shop you just walked by? How did they taste? etc.
It's a chance for them to just escape the worries of today or tomorrow, and just be in the moment.
What are the benefits of mindfulness for children?
Mindfulness has been proven scientifically to help reduce stress, anxiety and fears for both adults and children. It's especially useful for children with things like ADHD, aggression or mental health problems like anxiety.
It can also help them to develop on skills such as empathy and dealing with their emotions, as they will have a better understanding of what exactly they feel, what goes on around them and how to control their emotions at heightened times of stress. This will in turn help them to prioritise the important things in their life, follow through with their actions and have a positive mindset on their future.
How can you incorporate mindfulness in your family?
Well, the easiest way is to get into some sort of routine. Try lots of different little activities with your little one, and see what they respond best to, and what you think you can slot into your normal routine. If you're someone that likes to get your 10,000 steps in every day, take your little one out with you and practise mindfulness as you walk. If your little one loves a bath before bed, you can ask them to be mindful before they get out, so that they are nice and calm for bedtime.
Most importantly, it's important that you do this together, as your children learn best by following what you do - and remember to have fun!