The term mindfulness continues to gain more momentum as the benefits of practicing mindfulness are continuing to grow. In a nutshell, mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. More deeply, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings thoughts and bodily sensations used as a therapeutic technique.
Mindfulness can be seated, walking, standing or moving. It can consist of short pauses we insert into everyday lives, and it can be used as a mediation practice and accompanied by other activities such as yoga.
Many people struggle with mindfulness because they are focused on the benefits and not on the practice itself. Some of those benefits include a reduction of stress, enhanced performance, increased insight and awareness, and increased attention to other’s well being. Mindfulness meditation is a time where we suspend judgement and approach life experience with kindness.
As adults, we sometimes underestimate children. We have a tendency to believe that if we couldn’t do something, they won’t be able to do either. It’s difficult enough for us as adults who are able to control so much about our lives, to let go and be fully in one moment. Why would we spend time teaching kids to do this too. For many, it may seem like an impossible task with few to little benefits.
Teaching mindfulness to children though, can have great effects in the short term in terms of relationships, school performance, and emotional regulation, and even greater long term effects as they enter adulthood. Mindfulness has been shown to increase children’s confidence and their ability to build their own confidence, cope with stress, and relate to uncomfortable and/or unexpected moments. There are also three skills that are better shaped when mindfulness is included. These are, paying attention and remembering information, transitioning back and forth between different tasks, and behaving appropriately with others. These are actually categorized as executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills are affected by numerous mental health disorders, but the most obvious is ADHD. As children get older, they will need to be able to complete more advanced executive functioning skills such as reasoning, planning, problem solving, and forming positive relationships.
So the question isn’t really why to teach kids mindfulness. The question is why not?
If you’re feeling stuck on where to start, there are numerous resources online including youtube videos for the whole family to take part in. Some great places to start include mindful.org and the Zen Den. Use these resources and practice some activities like a family. It is difficult to teach your child these skills if you cannot access them or do not know them as well.