In today’s fast-paced, tech-driven world, our kids are feeling more stressed than in previous generations. The modern world forces us all to live and work at speeds that are quicker than the human brain and body were meant to go.
Adults are feeling these burdens in all kinds of ways. We fret over not having enough time to tick everything off our to-do lists. Rates of anxiety, depression and all types of psychological stresses are rising, and despite the living in one of the wealthiest regions of the world, many of us are more unhappy than ever. Children see the adults around them reacting this way, and they too have begun to shoulder similar burdens.
One way many adults have learned to pause and be present is through a process called mindfulness, which is deeply connected with meditation and yoga.
According to Psychology Today, mindfulness can be defined as “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
When kids slow down and stay present with all their thoughts, they learn that although they don’t have control over the outside world, they do have control over their own reactions and how they feel. Mindfulness originally derived from ancient Buddhist teachings, and has been adapted over the years in North America through a secularized version of meditation and Western-style yoga. It has become a go-to method to teach people to be calmer, happier and more at ease with themselves and who they are in the world.
Children who practice mindfulness can become happier, healthier, more productive people, and as a whole, experience less stress and anxiety. With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that parents want to raise children or help their children become mindful. But how does one communicate such highbrow notions to little ones? We’ve rounded up five tips below on how to instill mindfulness in your kids.
Learn basic breathing techniques
Even little tykes can follow basic breathing exercises. Simply offer brief instructions such as “Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly.” Something as simple as concentrating on their breathing can make an immediate difference in slowing their heart rate and giving them something else to focus on instead of their worries.
Maintain a gratitude journal
Being thankful plays an important role in becoming mindful. Depending on your kiddo’s age, they can write or draw what they are grateful for in a notebook. For wee ones, you can also record them speaking into a device and then transcribe it on their behalf. Although kids may be most thankful for getting cool toys for Christmas, the practice helps them shift their focus to what they already have. Regularly checking in reminds them of their blessings even when things aren’t going their way.
Try kid-friendly yoga
Look into buying or finding a kids’ yoga class online, getting a good instructional DVD or signing kids up for a yoga class in person. Yoga has a strong focus on breathing deeply, which is a foundational practice of mindfulness. It’s also a chance for kids to get some exercise and have fun making animal silly noises while working on their flexibility and calming their mind.
Take a walk in nature
Walking together with your children in a forest or nature park is a calming experience for you both. There is something about being surrounded by fresh air, flora and fauna that has been shown to have a healing effect on the body and mind.
Teach them to reach out when they’re scared
It’s very important that you always leave the channels of communication open between your children and yourselves and other trustworthy adults. If they know they have people to turn to, this will help them practice mindfulness by asking for help when they feel too stressed. To help kids handle high-stress moments, offer a variety of therapeutic tools to quell your little ones’ anxiety, whether it’s squeezing a stress ball, going for a walk, exercising, talking about the problem, meditating, writing or drawing.
Lead by example
To help build good habits, parents should emulate openness, demonstrate positive ways to deal with stress, and practice mindfulness themselves. When you lose your cool, tell your kiddos that you made a mistake, you’re sorry, and let them know how you’ll get back on track. Parents can give themselves a time out to calm down and let their kids know they are doing deep breathing, say their own mantras out loud, and even practice meditation and yoga openly in front of their kids. This way, children will see what helps mom and dad deal with stress. f you have a bad day at work, announce you’re going for a long walk to calm down, or to the gym, or call a friend to talk it out. Seeing a parent writing down their blessings also sets a great example for impressionable little minds as well.
There are lots of ways for kids to be mindful and learn to focus inward where they have control, so they can be happier on the outside. Giving children tools and techniques, physical and psychological, will help them to feel powerful and be the best they can be. And remember, even adults fall down occasionally and overreact to things.
How do you help your little ones overcome stress or anxiety? Share your advice in the comments below.