Mindfulness, or the act of staying and accepting the present moment without judgment, is not just a a practice for adults. For instance, adults and kids who practice mindfulness can increase their happiness and decrease their anxiety. Who couldn’t use more of that? Mindfulness for children is being widely practiced.
Mindfulness for Children
Many schools are teaching and incorporating mindfulness into their curriculum. Importantly, mindfulness for children is easy to teach and can be done at anytime- making it worth the effort. In fact, studies are showing kids today are more stressed out than ever. About 3.2%, 1.9 million, children ages three to seventeen have diagnosed depression. As well as that, about 7.1%, 4.4 million, in that same age bracket have anxiety according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, given the number of young people who have these conditions, learning mindfulness as children can be beneficial.
Firstly, by starting young, children can develop mindfulness techniques that last through adulthood. As well as that, laying the foundation for mindful practices down early on while the brain is still developing is critical. Importantly, mindfulness for children has amazing benefits. For example, mindfulness can help children make better decisions, manage stress, and improve memory function. Some more examples are they can reduce emotional reactivity and boost social communication skills. Importantly, these are skills that allow children to grow up and navigate the world as an adult as they face stressors.
Mindfulness in Education
Organizations like Mindful Schools have trained more than 50,000 educators, parents, and mental health professionals to work with students in K-12 classrooms. Although the majority of the scientific research on mindfulness research focuses on adults, they are beginning to study the benefits of mindfulness for children. For example, about 89% of students improved their emotional regulation. As well as that, 83% improved their focus, 76% demonstrated more compassion, and 79% engaged more in class. This is according to research from Mindful Schools.
Mindfulness and Academic Performance
Mindfulness can improve academic performance as well. For example, children who practice mindfulness have marked improvements in their planning and organizational skills. As well as that, mindfulness for children can help improve their attention spans, including children who suffer from ADHD and anxiety. For instance, many students who participated in a mindfulness program reported feeling more optimistic. Preteens reported feeling calmer and are getting better sleep. In fact, there’s also some evidence that mindfulness can help improve student performance, not just in the classroom, but on the field or stage.
Moreover, a school district in California that added a 30 minute meditation period into its curriculum reported better attendance, fewer suspensions, and better grades. The students were generally happier and more content. Overall, the emotional benefits of practicing mindfulness helps students perform better during high-stress assignments. Another student found that mindfulness has helped kids improve their test scores on stressful tests by managing anxiety.
Mindfulness and Emotional Well-Being
Children report enjoying mindfulness lessons. The positive effects observed in adults is also observed in mindfulness for children. For instance, mindfulness can boost well-being, improve sleep, and emotional regulation. In addition, it can decrease worrying, anxiety, emotional reactivity.
Mindfulness and Physical Health
Importantly, the benefits of mindfulness can extend beyond the classroom. For example, African American adolescents who were at risk for cardiovascular disease took a 12-week mindfulness course in addition to health classes. Overall, participants who focused on breathing awareness meditation experienced a reduction in blood pressure.
Mindfulness and Mental Health
Mindfulness also benefits the brain as well. For example, young people who participated in mindfulness exercises reported better sleep quality, improved response to stress, increased trust between friends, and decreased anxiety.
How to Teach Mindfulness for Children at Home
If your child’s school is not currently teaching mindfulness, parents can help their kids learn skills at home to make them more present. Here are a few easy mindfulness exercises that your children can do:
1. Mindful eating. When you’re sitting down for a meal together, encourage your child to take breaks and really pay attention to the food. For example, they can notice the crunch from carrots or other hard foods.
2. Take a walk. Try incorporating mindfulness into daily activities, like walking. For example, have your child point out what they see or hear on a walk. It can be the sound of the birds chirping, or the sun setting below the horizon.
3. Take a break. For three to five minutes, just breathe. Focus inward, stay present.
4. Journal. Ask your child to write about their daily activities. At first, your child might just say, “I went to math class and then recess.” Over time, they will be able to recall more and more details.
5. Relax your muscles. Have your child lay down and then have them tense their muscles and relax them one at a time. For instance, you can work from head to toe until your child’s entire body is relaxed.
6. Listen to a bell or another soothing sound. Have your child close their eyes and ask them to listen to the sound of the bell. Then, have your child describe the sound of the bell while their eyes are closed.
Mindfulness for Infants
You can’t exactly teach an infant mindfulness skills. However, as a parent, it can benefit you and your child if you practice mindfulness skills. Start by gently massaging your child. Then, focus on how your child responds to your touch.
Other Techniques you can Practice
1. Focus totally on your baby. For example, when you are interacting with your baby, pay attention to their body language and how they are feeling.
2. Practice compassion with your baby. For instance, if your baby is crying, hold them.
3. Accept your own feelings. Parenting a small child is tough and demanding. If the child has spent the day spitting up or crying all day, you are going to be drained. Firstly, acknowledge the feelings instead of fighting them.
Mindfulness for children can be a great opportunity to help young people improve their lives and give them skills to use through adulthood.
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