Life can be stressful for adults, so helping children and young people to develop techniques that allow them to cope with the challenges of modern life can be hugely beneficial. Mindfulness meditation provides the perfect way for young people to learn these new skills which can help them achieve in school, at home, and in later life.
Similarly, parents attending classes with their children may also learn new skills that can help them deal with life’s challenges and help them build a connection with their children as well as deal with their own stress and improve their overall mental health.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a skill that focuses on keeping the mind in the present moment. That is to say, in mindfulness meditation classes, we learn to let go of worry or thoughts about the past or the future. No-one is able to change the past, or accurately predict the future and being completely ‘in the moment’ allows us to enjoy life as it is right now.
The practice of mindfulness can be difficult as our minds are always active. In order to achieve the correct mental state, mindfulness teaches you to act as an observer of your own mind. Simply observing thoughts, but not getting swept away in them, reduces the emotions linked to those thoughts and enables us to let go of the suffering we create by judging our own thoughts and feelings about the situation, others or ourselves. Learning to observe your thoughts without adding extra emotion will enable you to make better decisions, and experience greater happiness in life.
How can Mindfulness Classes Benefit Children?
Children, and even some adults, have especially ‘busy’ minds. The associated emotions that come from getting swept away or distracted in thoughts can cause us to react in ways that are not always appropriate, make impulsive decisions, and often become burdened with too much emotional baggage. This applies to children and adults alike.
Attending mindfulness classes can encourage children and adults alike to observe what is happening in their minds today and to learn to focus their attention better, leading to more conscious choice and better thought out decisions rather than being fuelled by impulse and emotion.
How to Help Encourage Mindfulness in Children
To be able to encourage mindfulness in your children, it is important to understand and practice it yourself. If you want to learn mindfulness yourself or want to help your child with their practice, there are some helpful resources online that can help you to get started though mindfulness classes are always the best way since you will be guided by a teacher. Here are some things you can do to help your child develop mindfulness skills:
Allow Them to be Playful
Children have an outwardly playful nature and may not be able to focus or be attentive as much as an adult. They also may not be able to see the value of it unless it is made playful. For this reason, mindfulness “games” can be useful.
Keep the Process Simple
The world of psychology and wellbeing is full of big words. When teaching a child mindfulness, it is important to use language that they will understand. It may be helpful to start with smaller meditations or exercises, like asking them what they like about their breakfast or encouraging them with games that focus on one of their senses (touch, taste, sight, sound or smell) to help them practice observing.
There are many tools available to help encourage mindfulness into a child’s life. Examples include apps on smartphones that play relaxing sounds or have a voice to guide them. This will help to keep children engaged. Shorter periods of mindfulness meditation (ten, five or even two minutes) are better for children in the early stage due to their limited concentration span. You may also want to give them rewards if they are able to complete mindfulness challenges.
Get them into a Routine
Evening is a good time to practice mindfulness meditation. Calming the mind before bed ensures that your child will get the best quality of sleep. Mindfulness as a regular habit will also benefit your child’s overall mental and physical health as it has been linked to reducing the risk of many physical problems that occur later in life (such as heart disease, reducing obesity, and hypertension). As your child gets into a routine, they will remember to do it, even if you don’t!
You also may want to encourage tour child to practice mindfulness outside each morning. This is ideal if you live in a country with a temperate climate. Expose your child to the sounds of nature, which have been shown to have a calming effect on the mind. Ask them to describe what they notice about these sounds.
Allow them to Show Gratitude
Whilst taking part in mindfulness it is a good idea to give your child opportunities and encourage them to think about what they are thankful or grateful for, however small these things may be. Allow them time to tell you what they like, and ask them why they like it (an important aspect in the gratitude research). Examples could include their favorite toy, sweets, or blanket, or just having a healthy family. This practice helps reinforce the message to your child that they don’t need to behave more material possessions in order to be happy.
Mindfulness meditation has many benefits for adults and children alike. Getting started and making this part of yours or your child’s daily routine can be challenging, but when achieved you will likely notice positive changes in yours and your children’s lives. If you need additional help with mindfulness practices, our mindfulness classes in Newcastle, led by an experienced Mindfulness Teacher at Newcastle Psychologist & Counselling, are a great place to go for advice and to meet others on the same path.
I am Stuart and I have been writing on psychology-related articles and blogs for three years. Since my childhood days, I was an avid reader and a keen observer. Reading novels have always been my cup of tea. My educational background in English has given me a broader base for approaching many vast topics. Besides writing, what interests me is surfing technical blogs, playing badminton, and reading fiction.