Mindfulness for children and teens is a topic that is dear to my heart. I was reminded of the importance of mindfulness this morning during a chat with a school administrator. We talked about the effects of technology on the maturing brain and along with it, the stress, anxiety, and fatigue that plagues our kids today.
Throughout my son’s life, we have meditated together, focused on breath, and tried to instill a pattern of daily mindfulness. It sounds great doesn’t it? Almost magical and calming? A true enlightened parenting experience? Or not!
Yes, it was idyllic at times as I held a two month old in my arms and meditated, both of us succumbing to a relaxed, peaceful, and connected state. As he grew into a walking, talking little boy, I found myself in awe each time he spoke words of wisdom far beyond his years. And then, adolescents arrived, bringing with it an attitude, an opinion, and a rapid descent away from a daily mindfulness practice.
Numerous studies show the positive benefits of a mindfulness practice. Some go even further into how mindfulness in the classroom benefits not just the student, but also their peers, their teachers, and their home life.
Benefits of mindfulness in a school environment:
- Students are less frustrated and tend to have more patience and thus less judgement of one another.
- Students exhibit more signs of being kind to each other. A compassionate student is a successful individual who is capable of putting themselves in another person’s shoes.
- Students’ attention spans are increased, thus creating a more successful learning environment.
- Mindfulness boosts self esteem. The higher a student’s self esteem, the greater success as both a student and an individual.
Key steps to consider when introducing mindfulness to children and teens:
- Lead by example. Find a place and a moment to be mindful yourself. Let your child see you embracing a mindful practice.
- Talk to your children about the importance of doing something everyday to benefit their mental, emotional, and physical health.
- Start small. No one expects you or you child to attain the spiritual awareness of a Buddhist monk in a week, so start by being present in everyday situations. This can be a breathing exercise, taking a shower, or going for a walk. I have been known to find a mindful moment as I hand wash the dinner dishes.
- Family time can be mindful. Slow down at the dinner table. Turn off the TV and the phones. Focus on the meal before you. Listen to one another and be mindful of the food you are nourishing your body with.
- Spend time learning about other mindfulness practices. Coloring books, journals, meditation guides, they all exist with the intent of giving us permission to slow life down and enjoy the moment.