The skill of mindfulness is something you may have come across while practicing something like meditation or researching effective treatments for anxiety.
‘Mindfulness’ is defined as being able to focus and/or remain in the current moment without judgment, fear or the desire to shift your thinking outwards and away. It’s not a new strategy but one that has recently seen a resurgence in popularity and interest due to its effectiveness.
In an increasingly busy and at times frantic world, we spend a lot of time ‘outside’ the moment. When was the last time you sat and had a cup or tea or coffee and that was all you did? No scrolling on your phone or scanning the magazine sitting on the bench, just sitting and appreciating the warmth of your drink, the way it tastes, the colour.
There’s a good chance it’s been awhile. Being able to remain in the moment and appreciate the intricacies of the here and now isn’t easy, especially when the here and now might be uncomfortable or unpleasant, but its a skill well worth cultivating for the long term benefits on your emotional health and wellbeing.
Children can also benefit from learning mindfulness. Young kids are often inherently mindful and able to focus exclusively on one task till they complete it (or get bored!) but as children get older, they lose that skill and become avid multi-taskers (like their parents!) Being able to remain mindful is an excellent skill for children to have in their arsenal as they approach school age and then into tween/teenage hood and the stresses of school, extra curricular activities and their social lives.
Here are 4 ways to help your kids learn the skill of mindfulness
1. Animal breathing
Ask your child to choose a favourite stuffed animal and bring it to lie with them on the floor. Ask them to place the animal over their bellies and breathe quietly for 1-2 minutes watching their toy move up and down as they take a breath in and let it out. Tell then to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds can turn into bubbles and float away with their breath.
2. The power of scent
Grab a few scented objects (a bottle of perfume, essential oils, even herbs or spices from the kitchen). Ask you child to close their eyes and then hand them the object. Tell them to breathe in the smell and focus all their attention on it. After a minute or so, ask them to open their eyes and tell you all about the smell of the object (what it reminded them of, whether they liked it, did it smell similar to something else?)
3. Soft and hard
Grab a few different objects from around the house that have different textures. Soft, hard, smooth, scratchy are all good choices. Ask your child to close their eyes and hand them the object. Have them describe what the object feels like. You can help by asking questions like about the size, shape and texture of the object.
4. Boom, boom, boom
Have the kids jump up and down in place for one minute. Then have them sit back down and place their hands on their hearts. Tell them to close their eyes and feel their heartbeats, their breath, and see what else they notice about their bodies. After the minute is up, ask them what they felt/heard/sensed in their own bodies and outside of their bodies.