The growing awareness of the benefits of mindfulness, for children

It feels more difficult than ever to switch off & appreciating the things going on around us – mentally, we’ve rarely been completely relaxed since the dawn of the item on which you might even be reading this right now – the smartphone.

Whether we’re checking our emails at 2am or Skyping relatives in Australia at 5, we’re more connected than ever; we’re also more stressed than ever. The same goes for our children. With technological innovations, social pressures, exam expectations rising ever-higher and extra-curricular activities (sometimes making it feel as if our children have a better social life than we do), childhood has become an entirely more stressful experience than it may have been twenty years ago. This is why mindfulness has never been so important.

As adults, mindfulness is of course beneficial to us, allowing us to process the enormous number of thoughts that rush through our brains on any given day in a considered, conscientious manner. Emerging research reveals that it can also help our children, improving their attention span and the way in which they listen, calming them down when they’re upset or agitated and even allowing them to make better, more logical decisions. In short, it improves both emotional regulation and cognitive focus, while on a more basic level, it enables us to appreciate the world around us and ensure we’re present in each moment.

Mindfulness is being introduced as part of the curriculum in more and more schools and there are an ever-increasing number of specialist coaches across the country, reinforcing just how important it can be to development. But, as they say, learning begins at home, and taking just five or ten minutes a day to sit quietly and reflect on our children’s feelings, thoughts and emotions not only benefits them but us too, giving us insight as to how they process experiences and the world around them. By setting your child up with mindfulness skills early in life, you’re equipping them with the tools to take it through to adulthood too; a real key skill in the endeavour to lead a happy, engaged life.

So where to start? Mindfulness activities needn’t be a huge departure from how we already spend time with our children. Simple and fun tasks include making a ‘Mind Jar’ – much like a snow globe, our thoughts swirl around our brains at a million miles a minute when we are anxious or stressed, but left quietly for a few moments, things settle and we see things more clearly. Or head out on a ‘Noticing Walk’, designating one minute to silently taking in all the sounds that can be heard in that time; from dogs barking to car horns beeping to the wind rustling the leaves in the trees. Mindfulness is essentially awareness, and can be as simple as spending a couple of minutes before bed reflecting on the good things that happened that day, the emotions that were felt, and anything your child may be grateful for – even if it was just that there was no broccoli with dinner that evening.

For further information and ideas on mindfulness for children, take a look at the following links:

By Emma Elizabeth Davidson