Introducing Your Kids to Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a concept that has gained traction in the last decade as the yoga community around the world has grown in size. Perhaps the prevalence of heart-related disease has increased the interest surrounding de-stressing as well. It’s crucial to note that mindfulness is, in fact, an ancient practice, it’s not a new fad, and it’s not solely intended for yogis. Mindfulness is for everyone.
This practice is meant to be a daily habit that strengthens your ability to deal with stress by becoming more aware of thoughts, observing your actions, and seeking a calmer disposition. Becoming more adept at mindfulness benefits every single facet of your life, from romantic relationships to self-talk, your professional interactions, family dynamics, and even athletic performance.
Since mindfulness is such a vital aspect of being the best version of yourself, it’s a great idea to introduce this practice to your children while they are young and impressionable. This will set them up with a richer toolbox from which they can retrieve the aids they need to navigate life in the happiest and healthiest way possible.
Keep it Simple
Even for adults, taking on the practice of daily mindfulness can seem like a daunting task. It requires you to quiet your mind, sit still, and just be with yourself. Now, imagine being a kid and trying mindfulness… This is exactly why the key is to keep it simple with your kids as you start them up.
There are many ways you can approach introducing them to mindfulness. Consider all of the different routes and choose the ones that fit best into your lifestyle, your relationship with your child, and your overall family dynamic. Feel free to even implement different ones on different days. The idea is to make it your own; it’s not a one-size-fits-all prescription. Here are some ideas to customize the practice to your family’s needs:
Give your kids a mantra to repeat to themselves when they are feeling heightened (angry, sad, combative, aggressive)
A great one to start with is “peace begins within me.” Want to take this practice up a notch? Have them sit cross-legged with the back of their hands sitting atop their knees. As they say each word of that mantra, have them touch each finger to their thumb, one at a time, in sync with the repetition of each word. This will direct their attention back to their sensory sensations and bodily feelings, rather than the emotion they are feeling.
Have them sit still with themselves for at least 5 minutes daily
With this allotted time, you can play a guided meditation track or simply have them sit upright with their eyes closed, counting their breaths and witnessing the sounds around them. Besides playing a track for them from your phone or other device, it’s important that your child be away from screen time while they are practicing mindfulness. Watching a screen while they are trying to quiet their mind will serve as a distraction and negate many of the benefits.
Lead by Example
Parents already know the importance of this; kids tend to emulate what you do, not what you say. This makes it important to “walk the walk.” In other words, this practice for your child will be the most effective if you are living out the mindful practices that you are encouraging them to do.
If you easily lose your cool, have a hot temper, or are constantly frazzled, your kids will subconsciously make mental notes. These notes will be what they utilize to learn how to be, how to act, and how to deal with obstacles as life keeps coming at them. In all of this, it’s okay to show them that you’re not perfect. If you are joining your kids in their daily practice but still have your weak moments, just look to use those as teaching moments. Show them that there’s a better way to deal with hurdles and how to redirect their focus.
In many ways, mindfulness is like a muscle that you must keep training if you want it to become strong and resilient. If you find that you and your kids fall off the wagon (as we do, because life happens to all of us), don’t beat yourself up. Just start again. The answer is always to just begin again. Start becoming more aware of your breath, witness your thoughts, release the urge to change things and feel good again. Pretty soon, you and your family will resort to mindfulness on a subconscious level as you learn how powerful it is in bringing you back to yourself.
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