We often hear the challenges in teaching mindfulness -- how do you teach your children to be more mindful? One of the most popular questions we get asked is can mindfulness even be taught? The short answer, yes. There are many techniques parents and childcare providers can teach children how to be more self-aware in the present moment. Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can have a positive impact on a child’s development, mental health and wellbeing. For example, children who are taught mindfulness at a young age are more likely to be confident, patient, stress resilient, and have healthy coping mechanisms.
Mindfulness starts at home -- you must be present, calm, stress savvy to help raise a mindful and self-aware child, and be willing to practice along with them! Taking part in mindfulness activities with your child will help in your own practice, as well as further advance your family’s learnings. Here are five techniques that can help raise more mindful children:
Yoga is a great way for children to calm their bodies, transition between activities, or settle down before bed. Consider leveraging children's books to help teach your children about yoga, mindfulness, and movement. Sleepy Little Yoga, by Rebecca Whitford and Goodnight Yoga, by Mariam Gates are great books to read together. You can also find great resources on YouTube such as the Cosmic Kids Yoga stories.
Studies show that infants and toddlers exposed to lots of nurturing touch are more likely to develop into stress-resilient adults. Positive affirmation, physical affection, friendly talk and sympathetic body language help to develop your children into a more self-compassionate human being. This allows children to view themselves from a place of self love and acceptance, rather than a place of judgement. All of these tactics teach children to cope with their negative emotions, as well as develop secure, healthy attachment relationships.
A meditation jar is a great way to relax a child’s mind from stress and/or anxiety-provoking thoughts, and creates an easy-to-understand way to teach children about meditation. The visualization of glitter in the jar and what it represents teaches children to be still in these moments of “chaos”. Visualization is great for kids. Even if they cannot articulate the concept in words, their brain absorbs this information and learns that eventually their mind and body will calm and settle as well. Ready Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry MacLean is a great book to teach meditation as well.
Teaching breathing is a way to practice mindfulness in children and allows them to focus their attention solely on breathing. Over time this will help them learn how to concentrate on one thing at a time. Breathing techniques can help children redirect their focus away from an upsetting situation, such as a scraped knee or lost toy. Long deep breaths supply oxygen to the brain which signals your parasympathetic nervous system to relax and calm your body.
Emotional regulation is enhanced through mindfulness. Being mindful allows you to be present and therefore aware of your emotions so you are able to process your feelings. Self-regulation, or the ability to intentionally manage one’s emotional resources to accomplish goals, is crucial in everyday life. Parents and caregivers should always model sharing feelings, so children can feel comfortable talking about them as well. In addition, parents and nannies should model appropriate ways to handle their emotions with coping techniques that children can use and learn from. Children’s minds are like sponges, so it’s essential to model a behavior that promotes positive influences.
About Carole Kramer Arsenault
Carole Kramer Arsenault is an RN, author of Newborn 101 and founder of Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny, a leading agency of overnight and daytime newborn caregivers, and pre- and postpartum support services. As a parent educator and founder of a childcare staffing agency, Carole has more than a decade of experience working with thousands of families to help them source childcare and match them with top-notch providers that best fits their family’s needs.