Written by: Rhiannon Miller, LMSW – Mental Health Specialist & Lori Haas – Mental Health Assistant
Mindfulness is a simple, but powerful, way to help kids be calmer, happier, and more peaceful. Mindfulness is simply noticing what is happening in the present moment. Mindfulness helps us to pay close attention, calm us down when we are emotional, and helps us to focus.
Research has shown that mindfulness can improve a child’s sleep, help children deal with stress, and lessen the effects of trauma. Mindfulness helps parents by letting the adult calm down before dealing with an upset child. It also helps an adult to focus on the present instead of worrying about the past or focusing on fears about the future.
The building blocks of mindfulness are slowing down and focusing on each breath. One easy way to do this is to practice the “Take 5” breathing technique. Inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 5. Use your fingers to count as you breathe. Repeat this inhale/exhale activity 5 times.. This simple exercise can calm down the brain and slow down any negative emotions.
Another simple way to be mindful is to pay attention to what is around us. Children and adults can name sounds they hear when they close their eyes. Interrupting our worrying thoughts is as easy as focusing on something else, such as our body or what is around us.
Try mindfully eating an apple. Notice its color, how it feels in your hand, the smell, the crunch as you take a bite, and the taste. You can expand this by talking to children about the sunshine, earth, and tree that helped this apple grow.
Mindfulness works best when practiced regularly. Find one or two things that work for you and try to fit them into your daily routine.
Ideas adapted from Mindful Schools (www.mindfulschools.org) Sarah Herrington from www.mindbodygreen.com.
Additional Mindful Activities to try with your Child:
· Take a walk – notice things that you have not seen before. During one minute of the walk, be completely silent and simply pay attention to the sounds you can hear – frogs, wood peckers, or a lawnmower.
· Breathing Buddy – give your child a stuffed animal and have them lie down with the buddy on their belly. Then have them focus on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as they breathe in and out.
· Starfish Meditation – While deeply breathing, have your child make a starfish with one hand (fingers spread out wide). Using their pointer finger on the other hand, have them trace their starfish by going up and down each finger. The focus on the hand has a calming effect.
Some easy ideas:
Blow bubbles, make pinwheels spin, keep a balloon afloat or blow a feather across the floor.