As children transition to teenagers and eventually adults, they are greeted by change and the consequences of change. Some of that change comes by their own actions, but a vast majority of it comes by way of their environment and relationships.
Children and adolescents encounter many obstacles throughout their development that call for processing and adjustments. They are faced with learning their physical bodies by way of puberty; creating and maintaining friendships; self-esteem and self-image being influenced by social media; changing family structures due to divorce and possibly relocation and overall just finding where they are going to fit in, in the world one day. Naturally, it's a part of ‘growing up’, but that doesn't mean it isn't at times overwhelming. Stress and anxiety is bound to take hold of our kids minds. How do we prepare them for this? Encouraging techniques such as mindfulness can reduce the prevalence of those responses, and the earlier we can teach them the better.
In all phases of life being aware of our feelings, thoughts and behaviors is important. It's one of the ways that we can control something as simple as concentration.
It is certainly beneficial to teach children how to reflect by being mindful before they react, so that when they react, it is from a place of calmness and resolution.
So how does teaching mindfulness to children actually look in practice? There are many different techniques. One technique, known as mindful meditation, can be taught to children through the act of paying attention or focusing on what is happening in the present moment through the senses.
Here's a practice you can try anytime you are sitting down comfortably with your child: begin by focusing on your breathing. Take big deep breaths together and bring attention to the rise and fall of your breaths for moments at a time. Then ask, "What do you see?" "What do you hear?" "What do you smell?" As they grow older, those types of questions can grow into how they are using their mind to process through various situations. Responses to "What are you feeling?", "What are you thinking about?", "What do you think is agitating you?" will grow from "IDK" into deep and revealing answers over time.
With everything else in life, mindfulness takes practice. Never push your kids about being perfect with it, just keep them growing in awareness of who they are. No matter their current emotional or mental state, you can always gently remind them that you love them!
Blog Post Written by Wellness Contributor Keirra Goggins, BA (Psych.)