Guest post by Dhaval Patel of Zenful Spirit
How can we use mindfulness to empower and connect with our kids and teens?
Teenagers and kids nowadays are more inclined to connect socially to people.
Attending social gatherings, joining sports, and other related activities are what they call the trend. Not taking part in these activities would most likely drag them into their smartphone and other devices. These social activities and devices usually serve as their escape to cope with loneliness, stress, and anger.
Now that social circles are disrupted because of the global pandemic, our teens and kids will do well to develop and practice mindfulness to help them find ways to cope with the stressors of life.
This is because mindfulness paves a healthy way for teens and kids to cope with unwanted emotions and eventually control their feelings.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply refers to the ability to control one’s mind instead of allowing the mind to control one’s self. This involves an intentional focus on one specific thing without letting the reason wander and get distracted.
For a better understanding of what mindfulness is, go through the brief explanation below:
- You are practicing mindfulness if you pay attention to what happens at the moment—without distractions and judgments.
- Mindfulness is when you do not allow your emotions or thoughts or troubles to get into your self-control.
- When you neutrally view your thoughts and constantly check your emotions before reacting to any circumstance, that is mindfulness.
- To have mindfulness learn how to acknowledge unwanted thoughts. Try to label these negative thoughts whenever they happen.
- Mindfulness is when you get to respond to stressful situations and challenges more carefully and thoughtfully.
- Mindfulness is an awareness experience that is also called mindful meditation.
Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids and Teens
Parents can empower kids and teens in handling challenges. This can be done by helping them develop the skill of mindfulness while still young.
Here are some mindfulness games for toddlers and young kids that work well to introduce them to mindfulness.
Apart from empowering the mind and the willful capacity of the children, mindfulness also brings several health benefits when practiced well.
Among these are:
- improved mood
- reduced depression and anxiety
- improved sleep
- lengthened attention span
- maintained healthy and stable blood pressure
- controlled pain
Moreover, mindfulness serves as an avenue for children to develop resilience and a sense of disciplined control, especially during this challenging and unstable time.
The benefit of mindfulness can be similar to meditation.
However, mindfulness, as compared to meditation, can be practiced in many different ways. You can do any activity such as running, exercising, doing chores, or listening to music while practicing mindfulness.
The key to being mindful is when you focus intentionally and solely on one activity and eliminate all other thoughts.
Teaching Mindfulness to Children
As a parent, it will be more helpful to assist your child in practicing mindfulness, especially when both of you are not yet familiar with it.
Practicing together or modeling yourself while doing this activity is considered the most efficient way of teaching.
One place to begin is by creating a healthier atmosphere while eating.
Ask everyone to do away with their phones and have your meals together with no other distractions. Be an example to your children that you actually can focus and turn your back away from distractions.
Every day, set aside a particular time to walk, sit, drive together, or read as a group, without distractions and other mundanes. By practicing this often, you will eventually build stable and more advanced activities on mindfulness.
How to Get Started Practicing Mindfulness with Kids
Below are some activities that you can try at home as a family to teach your children to develop the skill of mindfulness
- For three (3) minutes, close your eyes and stay still.
- Teach your children to focus on their breathing sensation while doing the inhale and exhale activity.
- While doing so, place your hand on your belly.
- Focus on the two motions that happen while you breathe—belly rises and falls.
- Think that you are inflating and deflating a balloon in your stomach as you breathe.
It may happen that your mind would wander while doing this exercise. If this happens, you just need to go back to your breathing focus.
For a kid who struggles with staying still, train the child to focus while dancing, walking, or executing yoga.
Online, you can download mindfulness applications like the Calm app that features mindfulness activities for kids and teens.
Mindfulness is a practice. With the constant and correct techniques, parents and teens can soon improve. Also, it is better to have open communication with your child about what has gone right or wrong.
Mindful Activities for Kids and Families
Here are some mindful activities you can do with your family.
1. Mindful Art Attack
Teach your kids and teens to feel the movement of the pencil on the paper attentively. You can doodle outside the lines, repeat the shapes, and draw smoothly. You can do this activity while standing, sitting, or in any position you are comfortable with.
Name something simple to draw, and try drawing it four different ways:
- On the paper on with your eyes closed
- Using your non-dominant hand
- Place the paper on a notebook on your head
Also, check out these beautiful mandalas to print and color carefully, maybe listening to some calming music at the same time.
2. Mindful Maze Game
Outdoors, create curve and snake-line lines using chalk (or masking tape when it’s rainy), spider web, lava flow, and a big swirl. This should look like a maze for children.
Teach the children to focus on where they are going to step. Avoid stepping onto dangerous creatures and materials such as snakes or lava. The activity will teach the children to keep their toes safe from stepping the harmful images and focus on their track.
Try going through with a partner, one with a blindfold on and the other leading with carefully chosen words.
Add in physical obstacles for an even bigger motor activity challenge as well.
3. Use a Glitter Jar for Mindfulness
Why a glitter jar? This material represents our busy minds and illustrates the effect of mindfulness on a person’s being. The materials needed for this activity are plastic beads, glitters, a jar, and LEGO. The colors of these materials represent different things such as behaviors, feelings, and thoughts.
Assist the kids in shaking the jar and make them watch the items as they swirl around inside the jar. Instruct your child to breathe and focus as the glitter swirls and then settles at the bottom. Explain that this may represent that their mind can be cleared and calmed.
We can also use the glitter jar as a visual timer while practicing breathing.
4. Mindfulness Check In
Do a simple “how are you feeling” check in with your kids or teens at a specific time each day. But instead of using words like “Fine, or good,” use a metaphor to describe how you are feeling.
We call this “What’s your Weather?”
Start by describing how you feel as a type of weather: Sunny, cloudy, mostly sunny, rainy, thunderstorm, foggy, snowstorm, etc.
Teens are really good at picking a type of weather that can describe how they are feeling physically, mentally or emotionally.
Other metaphors to use to describe how you are feeling:
- An animal
- Type of candy
- Plant or flower
- Ocean animal
- Video game
Mindfulness rarely comes as easy to many kids. With practice, this mind skill can be learned.
Often, practicing mindfulness involves correct breathing exercises. For breathing exercises, the aim is to maintain concentration in every breath- inhaling and exhaling-and eventually get the mind from wandering about. This exercise helps you to build focus.
Although this practice sounds simple to be done, it can be difficult, especially for teens and kids who have challenges in regulating emotions and paying attention.
Apart from breathing exercises, there are other means to practice mindfulness. While moving, you can do some mindful activities. Since kids have struggles in staying still, it can be helpful for them to do some mindful activities while moving. Among these include having mindful walks or doing yoga.
Remember that mindfulness is a form of mental exercise.
It is possible that while you try to focus on doing something at a time, you may get lost or distracted.
You may opt to start over.
You might think that is a mess, but actually, you’re getting the process. Losing your mind concentration and eventually finding your way back to it-breathing in and out, you’re doing it right.
We can integrate daily life experiences with mindfulness. This happens when you maintain awareness and attention to any routine activities you are engaged in.
Final Thoughts on Mindfulness for Kids and Teens
Mindfulness develops a sense of self-control among teens and kids. This helps them to have control of the circumstances and emotions that may affect their decisions.
Mindfulness allows them to experience a greater joy because this practice makes them focus on what is presently happening. The focus will take them away from worrying about future stress or past breakdowns.
Ready to learn more?