Why Mindfulness and Peace is Important for Children
“There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.” – Tara Brach
Life is never truly simple—though adults seem to forget that as they grow up. Children face numerous stressors and challenges throughout their youth, such as going to a school they might not like, facing bullies, following unsavory rules, or witnessing abusive relationships and other traumas. With the pressure to excel being placed on children at an early point in their lives, it is no wonder many develop anxiety and depression and know nothing about how to manage it. Teaching mindfulness to children is one way to help children cope with stress and promote a peaceful mindset.
Today, we’re going to discuss why mindfulness and peace is important for children and then provide some tips and tricks for how to add it to your child’s daily routine.
What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Often recognized as a simple form of meditation, mindfulness is a process that increases awareness in the present moment. To cultivate mindfulness means using the present moment to understand thoughts, emotions while promoting positivity. Or as kabat-Zinn has put it: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
In other words, mindfulness is focusing on the current moment and remaining psychologically present in spite of distractions, stimuli, and negative emotions. Mindfulness keeps the mind from getting bored, withdrawn, and restless.
The Benefits of Mindfulness in Children
“Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.” – Buddha
Mindfulness and peace are two elements that can help children battle the craziness of a world they are just beginning to understand. Mindfulness helps the child come to center within themselves, to acknowledge their emotions rather than casting them aside, and to handle whatever comes their way. Mindfulness isn’t solely just emotional regulation—it’s opening the mind up to the potentials of what living in the present moment can do. All anxieties and worries start from replaying events from the past and fretting over what the future may bring.
Children shouldn’t have to be caught up in brooding over what could have been or what will be. When children are removed from the present moment, they miss important lessons, and their bodies become racked by stress. Negative symptoms, such as stomach aches, anxiety, headaches, and insomnia begin to develop. As children age, they turn to other ways to cope with the pain, such as drugs and suicide. In fact, 70% of mental health cases being reported are found to begin in childhood—and this is true for many developed countries.
That is why mindfulness is so important. Mindfulness helps children become more tolerant adults by promoting empathy, awareness, gratitude, and appreciation. Mindful children can not only accept their emotions, they know where those emotions are coming from, and they begin to show a gentleness that helps them evolve and reach greater heights.
How to Teach Mindfulness at Home
“The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are moments when we touch one another.” – Jack Kornfield
Humans can begin to learn mindfulness out of the womb. Mindfulness can be found in every touch, every sense, and in every breath. Children engage in mindfulness even before they learn to speak, for they are experiencing the world as a brand new place full of possibilities—and they cannot go a moment without being open to everything the world offers. However, when children are given distractions, such as technology and past events, they begin to escape from the present moment.
When developing a mindfulness practice at home, consider your child’s maturity level and age. Let their interest in mindfulness be your guide. Activities can be complex or simple, all depending on how far your child is willing to go.
Here are some mindfulness exercises for children:
1. Progressive muscle relaxation
If you do yoga, you might have done progressive muscle relaxation once or twice. This is where you tense and unwind separate regions of the body, working through every single part. For children, learning to isolate individual parts of their body helps them regulate both physical and emotional tension. They also develop a greater kinesthetic sense. If your child has a hard time calming down for this practice, try some child-friendly yoga postures to get them centered.
2. Belly breathing
Before or after you do progressive muscle relaxation, you can engage in belly breathing. With this kind of breathing, children learn a coping method for when anxiety takes control. Instead of shallow breathing or hyperventilation, they can turn to the power of deep, even breathing to help them focus and cancel out negative thoughts.
3. Sensory exploration
Does your child have a favorite memory? While simultaneously promoting adventurousness and bravery, ask them to tune into their intuition and moments within their memories and describe that moment in detail. Have them tune into separate sounds, feelings, and so on. What do they see, smell, hear, taste, and touch? How many tiny sensations can they observe?
4. Thoughts and emotions
Both younger and older children can benefit from learning how to describe their emotions. Instead of asking how something went, ask how they are feeling right now. Have children describe each thought as it comes and goes. Help them name the things they are feeling or experiencing more elaboratively. From there, you can help them visualize ways to dismiss negative, pessimistic emotions and welcome in happier thoughts.
5. Games and puzzles
Mindfulness doesn’t have to solely be meditation and moments of quiet. Many sensory games can be transitioned to teach mindfulness to younger children. Take your child outside, for example, and have them help in the garden. Let them help with cooking and taste-testing. Allow them to paint with their hands, roll around in the mud, build their own cardboard forts, and the like. The only thing you shouldn’t do when playing around with mindfulness is letting them sit in front of a television or computer screen.
Negativity isn’t solely for adults. Children experience stress, too. No time is too soon to help children understand their thoughts and emotions. You can help them cope with difficulties through mindfulness and peaceful practices, which will strengthen your child’s emotional intelligence and promote inner strength and fortitude. At Kaban Montessori School, mindfulness and being present in the moment is something we believe to be part of our core values. We ensure that every single child at the school works on activities that are mindful in nature to help build independent thinking and emotional intelligence. By living in the present moment, you and your child will be able to tackle any challenge that comes your way.