Teaching Kids Mindfulness: The Benefits and Easiest Ways to Do It!
It’s a phrase uttered dozens of times a week (if not more) in households with children between the ages of three and 18. How is it that when they’re playing video games or watching cartoons, kids can have an amazing attention span? But at other times, capturing their attention is harder than getting them to close the refrigerator door!
While teaching kids to be present to their surroundings and to their emotions can be frustrating, there is an answer: mindfulness.
Just like adults, kids are easily distracted and quite often, they’re unaware of their circumstances. This disconnection can lead to challenges like anxiety, emotional outbursts or difficulty controlling their behavior.
Interestingly, research shows mindfulness benefits kids’ brains and improves their behavior. Their attention spans improve. They also enjoy better mental health and become more resilient to stress.
Mindful Kids are Happier Kids.
Several studies have shown that kids who participate in mindfulness programs are happier. And the sooner you get kids started with mindfulness, the easier it becomes for them to develop a capacity to become calm and centered when life throws them a cure ball.
What does this look like in real life?
Picture how a typical 7-year old responds to a situation that’s scary, overwhelming, or generally unpleasant. Perhaps they’re about to take a difficult test or go to the dentist. Many kids will become so fearful and anxious that they have a hard time being calmed by a parent or other adult.
The 7-year old who practices mindfulness meditation knows how to stop, close their eyes, and breathe deeply to get themselves calm and focused.
The two outcomes are vastly different. That’s because meditation and deep breathing exercises actually change the physiology of the brain, according to scientists. Instead of kids reacting emotionally to a charged situation (being controlled by their emotions), children can control their impulses and reactions to that situation.
OK, but how do you get kids to practice mindfulness when it’s difficult to get them to do pretty much anything, let alone meditate?!
5 Ways to Help Your Child Become Less Anxious and More Mindful
Here are 5 fun and creative ways to help you child become more mindful.
Pretend to walk on thin ice
Teach your child to become more aware of their body and their movements. Tell them to pretend they’re walking on thin ice and they have to move slowly and carefully around the room.
You can bring more awareness to their movements by pretending you’re a radio announcer. Say things like, “You’re picking your right leg up slowly and carefully putting it back down.”
Breathe with them
Practice deep breathing with your child. You can do it while driving or before putting them to bed at night. Share with them how to relax, slowly breathe in deeply and exhale. Invite them to feel any tension melt away.
“Cool the pizza” is a fun breathing exercise that will help your child become more aware of their bodily sensations. Tell your child to breathe in through their nose like they’re smelling a piece of pizza. Then, tell them to blow out through their mouth, like they’re cooling the piece of hot pizza.
You can practice this often when your child is calm. Then when they’re angry or anxious, remind them to practice mindfulness by saying, “Cool the pizza.”
Savor the Flavor
Another way to involve one of your child’s senses is by encouraging them to taste and savor a flavor. Give them a specific piece of food, like a piece of candy or a raisin.
Encourage them to look at the piece of food for about a minute. Then, have them put it in their mouth but tell them not to chew it right away.
Instead, instruct them to pay attention to how it tastes and how it feels in their mouth. They may experience textures or tastes they’ve never noticed before.
Smell the Roses
Scent is a great way to help kids become more aware of the here-and-now. An easy way to engage their sense of smell is to give them something aromatic, like a flower or an orange peel.
Invite them to close their eyes and concentrate on what they smell. Spend a few minutes just paying attention to the aroma. Then ask them a few simple questions like, “What do you think of that smell?”
Draw an Everyday Object
Give your child an ordinary object, like a leaf or a rock. Encourage them to hold it in their hands and spend some time looking at it. Even though they probably see similar objects all the time, looking at it more closely can give them a new perspective.
Then, tell them to draw the object. Encourage them to take their time and include some details. Just make sure they know it’s not about perfection, only the fun of it.
Finally, be a good example yourself. Your child will not even attempt to be mindful if they see you out of control. Do you yell at other drivers or get way too angry when your dog tracks mud into the house? Do certain people in your life send you through the roof?
If so, it’s time to try deep breathing and meditation yourself. Be an example. If your child sees mom or dad handling stress in healthier ways, they will be far more likely to give it a go.
While it may take some effort to get your kids to commit to practicing mindfulness, the results will be more than worth it.
Begin Online Counseling for Kids with Anxiety in Illinois
If your child’s anxiety feels too big to deal with on your own and you need help figuring out what to do about it, online therapy can help. Anxiety may feel overwhelming, but it is highly treatable. Often having a hopeful conversation about feelings and specific ways to move forward is the best way to experience change.
As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing online anxiety treatment for kids. To start your child’s counseling journey, follow these simple steps:
- Click on the Schedule an Appointment button.
- Select a day and time in my online calendar
- Or learn about me, your caring online therapist
- Watch your child gain confidence and feel better
Other Counseling Services at Briefly Counseling
Anxiety counseling for kids isn’t the only service I offer in my Chicago and Illinois online counseling practice. Other mental health services provided by Briefly Counseling includes anxiety counseling for teens and Christian counseling.
Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 19.
I provide all services via online therapy in Illinois. Whether you’re in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Rockford, Libertyville, or Crystal Lake, I can help you. Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.
Visit my website at www.BrieflyCounseling.com for more information or call 224-236-2296 to connect with me personally.