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Teaching Kids About Mindfulness

What is mindfulness, anyway?

Seems to be a hot topic these days, but I hope it stays around.  It is a concept that is so important for our wellbeing in our fast paced and overscheduled society; something that twill help our kids (and us as adults) learn the skills to manage emotions, connect with others, and solve problems with others.

Researchers at UC Berkeley have found that children who have received mindfulness training in school benefit from better emotional regulation than peers, more attentional control, increased self awareness, and enhanced well being.

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” - Greater Good Magazine

"Mindfulness: Allowing an emotion to take hold and pass without acting on it." -Benedict Carey

I make an effort to be present with my kids and husband and am trying to teach my kids the same.

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Here are some strategies to practice mindfulness with kids:

  1. Practice breathing: Deep breathing relieves stress and anxious responses in the nervous system.  When people are anxious, they tend to take shorter or more shallow breaths. By focusing on deep breaths, you can help calm yourself.  You can teach your kids to practice mindful breathing using the strategies here:

    • Lazy 8 breathing: This is from a program often used in schools called Zones of Regulation that I think is awesome!  It provides a visual and kinesthetic movement to use while breathing slowly in an out.  I didn’t permission to repost the picture of what it looks like, but if you Google “Lazy 8 breathing” it will come up!  

    • Smell the flower, blow out the candle: This one is pretty straight forward.  When practicing deep breaths, tell kids to pretend they are “smelling the flower,” and when exhaling, have them pretend to blow out a candle.  Repeat 10 times, or as many as needed!

  2. Practice identifying feelings and labeling emotions: In the moment, when your kids are upset, say what you see.  “I can see that you’re really sad about this,” “You’re mad and you look like you want to hit,” “You are frustrated you can’t have that.”  Labeling what you see helps them learn to identify their feelings, and the modeling will encourage them to start doing this too. Afterwards, when you’re not in the heat of the moment, talk about what they noticed in their bodies during the difficult time.  Was their heart beating fast? Did their face feel hot? Did they feel a lump in their throat? Noticing these sensations helps them to be aware of how they are reacting.

  3. Anger wheel of choice: If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen the Anger Wheel of Choice my daughter created.  This is a Positive Discipline strategy that teaches kids that it’s emotions are always okay. How we respond to them, may or may not be okay.  It’s okay to be mad, it’s not okay to hit the person you’re mad at. During a calm time, talk with your child about ways to say or show they are mad/angry that are acceptable.  Think: stomping my foot, pulling my own shirt, saying how I feel, push a wall, draw my feelings, etc. They can draw a “wheel” and include the different alternatives they chose on their wheel of choice.

  4. Positive Affirmations: The way we talk to ourselves, our inner dialogue, ultimately becomes what we believe and how we view ourselves and others.  If we go through our days making negative comments about ourselves, we will not only model this for our kids, we will in general experience more negative emotions.  

“Your beliefs are merely habitual thinking patterns that you learned as a child. Many of them work very well for you. Other beliefs may be limiting your ability to create the very things you say you want.” Louise Hay

It is imperative we help instill positive thinking patterns in our children.  We want them to be confident, empathetic, and mindful people. This is something that we must work at and teach regularly.  Check out my Positive Affirmation Cards for kids for a source of inspiration + connection + values

Matt Hendon