How Can I Practice Mindfulness with my Child?
Practising mindfulness has become increasingly important over recent years. Our growing awareness of the need for mental space and relaxation has even impacted on our understanding of the peace of mind children require in order to grow, develop and nurture their own love for learning and play. With this in mind, join Jaques as we turn our Mini Mind Hub into a Mini Mindfulness Hub and pose the question, How Can I Practice Mindfulness with My Child?
What is Mindfulness and How Can it Help?
The principle of Mindfulness was born out of the practices of Buddhism, with much of its process built upon meditation. As a technique of awareness, utilising Mindfulness for our well-being asks us to take care to notice what is happening to us in the present moment, acknowledge it and adjust appropriately.
By practising Mindfulness, we seek to:
Develop more effective responses to our emotions
Be less judgemental of personal failings
Manage our own thoughts in a more constructive manner
As noted by the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre, “When ancient wisdom and modern psychology come together they are no longer a set of ideas or practices, but an illumination that guides us to be more present in our lives, with ourselves and with others, with clarity, kindness and ease.“
It should certainly be noted that practising mindfulness with children is not merely about carrying out set activities and is not a quick fix for all problems. However, it is a continual practice and attitude which can revolve around all that we do.
As Mindfulness Professor Mark Williams discusses, “Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply 'mental events' that do not have to control us. Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively.”
So, how can we instil the concept of mindfulness into our children and their daily lives?
Setting the Standard
Explaining such a grand concept to children may be an uphill struggle. This is why it is better to set the standards when it comes to self awareness and improved mental well-being. We often refer to growing infants as sponges, eagerly soaking up all around them. It is here that, as parents and care-givers, we set the standards of how to approach our daily activities, remaining calm and focussed upon the present moment.
In theory, these ideas are very simple. However, in practice, with so many things going on around us, it can be easy to become distracted. This is where our own practice of mindfulness can have a huge impact upon growing children.
As the standard bearers, our children will mirror the way in which we engage with them. In doing so, remember these key principles:
Stay Calm – Our own ability to stay calm in stressful situations can have a profound effect on how children choose to deal with their own anxieties and concerns.
Remain Focussed – Remaining focussed upon children is essential to their own emotional foundations. Young children crave attention. By rechaining focussed upon them , we create an understanding within them that they are safe and valued.
Take Some Time – Any parent knows that the madness never stops when it comes to raising our children. This is when it is most important to take time out to practice our own mindfulness masterclass. Taking time out can be as simple as dropping our shoulders and taking a deep breathe. Practicing mindfulness like this on a regular basis will bring a positive muscle memory to the process of relaxing and make it a more natural part of your, and your child's, life.
Be Contemplative – Whether struggling with messy nappies, getting the kids out of the door for school or playing homework helper, it is always important to be mindful of why we go through such stresses. Being thankful for what we have is something that is so easily avoided as we go through our daily lives. Take the time to appreciate what you have in order to give a more positive context to the trials and tribulations of the day. In doing so, we afford our children the same natural understanding that there is always a silver lining to be found in any situation.
Mindfulness Exercises for Children
So, now that you are thoroughly prepared for a life of self awareness, what can we do practically to bring mindfulness to our children? Let's look at some great mindfulness activities for children to discover:
Meditation through Breathing – With its roots in Buddhist teaching, it should come as no surprise that meditation plays such a key role in Mindfulness for children. Luckily, you don't need a rich understanding of spiritual teachings in order to bring the many benefits of meditation into your life. For many, meditation can be most effective in the form of simple breathing exercises. This allows us to take a moment away from stress, refocus and find a calm mental space. Of course, when it comes to helping our children, simple is key. For a straightforward route to mindfulness magic, follow along with our breathing technique below. This can be printed for free from our fabulous Mini Minds Resource page.
Forgive and Forget – As adults, we know that many of our stresses revolve around our opinions of others and the thoughts we perceive them to have about us. By teaching forgiveness to children, we gift them the ability to remain focussed on the positive aspects of their lives. A Mindful.org study into the benefits of forgiveness in children suggests that,
“After learning forgiveness, some children even perform better at school, have fewer conduct problems and delinquency, and feel more positive about their parents and teachers.”
Positive thinking is key to utilising the daily benefits that practising mindfulness can have. Of course, forgiveness doesn't mean excusing others failings, but acknowledging the personal benefits of moving beyond the personal stresses that conflict presents. Jaques recommends these fabulous forgiveness exercises for building bridges and saying goodbye to feelings of resentment.
Positive Thinking – As we have already noted, developing Mindfulness with children is about habit. There is no quick fix, mindfulness is a state of constant well-being, as opposed to turning to exercises and activities at the most stressful moments. Within this, one of the most effective outlooks we can have, is that of thankfulness. It may seem a cliché to 'remember all that you have to be grateful for', but positive thinking plays a huge role in adjusting our minds for a healthier mental well-being.
Make it a regular habit to sit with your child discuss the things you are both grateful for. Unsurprisingly, you are likely to be most grateful for each others presence. What better use of mindfulness could there be?
Make Use of Mindfulness Exercises – From breathing exercises to a moment in the bliss of nature, there are many opportunities to bring mindfulness into your child's day. So, always be sure to make use of the many excellent mindfulness resources. Visit the Mini Minds Hub now, where you can print out a wonderful selection of free mindfulness cards for your children to keep with them at all times.
Montessori Toys – Mindfulness during play is a fantastically fun way of bringing mental well-being to play time. Montessori toys are a wonderful way to bring focussed engagement to play time and shut out the outside world. Whether pondering early learning puzzles or creating with crafts, Montessori toys are focussed upon sensory observation and the ability to get lost in discovery. In doing so, children are afforded a journey through mindfulness, as outside challenges are shut off and replaced by self directed intrigue and development.
Mindfulness Training Audio – Many of the best methods for a journey through mindfulness are guided by skilfully trained child professionals. As such, there are many specially created audio exercises which will aid your child in dealing with different challenges and stresses in their daily lives. Pay a visit to the home of UK mindfulness for an excellent selection of free mindfulness meditations for kids and adults.
For many more free educational resources and top parenting tips, mindfully make your way across to the Mini Minds Hub today, and for your chance to win some wonderful children's toys, why not come and pay us a visit on our competition sign up page.
When it comes to teaching mindfulness with our children, a journey of self-discovery and well-being awaits. So, when next pondering, 'How Can I Practice Mindfulness with my Child?', look no further than Jaques of London, Teaching the world to play since 1795.