By: Erica Marcus, MAT, is a certified Mindful Schools instructor who offers mindfulness programming for families, students, staff, and schools around New England.
Why is Mindfulness for Children Important?
Most children are by nature, far more present in the immediate world around them than adults. Children delight in ant hills, splash about in the bath, and run just for the sensation of moving their body freely. This is why teaching mindfulness to children is more about building upon their natural curiosity for the world. In contrast, teaching mindfulness to adults is more about getting underneath some deep-rooted habits and patterns of the mind and body.
As adults, the best thing we can do for the young people in our lives is to show them how to respond mindfully to the world around us. Children learn through observation, so when we rush through our day with our phones in front our faces, refusing to stop for a meal, chat with a neighbor, or even take a breath, we are unconsciously teaching them that this is the way adults need to be. If, on the other hand, we choose to move mindfully, savoring our dinner with family, listening fully when someone in our lives needs us, breathing deeply when we are overwhelmed, that too, demonstrates an alternative way to “be” in the world.
For those of us who are interested in bringing mindfulness to children, we need to practice mindfulness ourselves so that it becomes our natural way of being in the world. Our children will notice us taking time to slow down and observe what is happening, internally and externally.
So, how do we practice in order to make it a habit?
- Carve out a short amount of time each day (beginning with as few as 3-5 minutes).
- Choose an anchor for the attention: this could be observing the rise and fall of the breath, the sounds around you, the feeling of the body against a cushion.
- Each time the mind wanders and you recognize it, bring your attention back to your anchor.
- At the end of this time, take a moment of gratitude for whatever is especially important for you in that moment.
Here are some suggestions for how to practice mindfulness with your children:
- Sit outside together and see how many different kinds of sounds you notice. You can even map these out on a piece of paper.
- Go on a scent walk (this is especially great in spring) and notice how many different smells you can find.
- Take a silent minute at dinner time and notice how flavorful everything on your plate is. Afterwards, share with one another what you feel grateful for that you got to experience that day.
When we are able to seamlessly incorporate mindfulness into the daily fabric of our lives with our children, we fortify this relationship they already have with the world, and learn to reconnect ourselves. We can give them the gift of taking moments to pause and be in awe at the world around us. From us, they can inherit this life-long skill of using our minds to notice what’s going on inside and outside of ourselves.
If you would like more information on this, or any other health related topic, the health educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.