Self-awareness and social awareness are two of the key social and emotional learning skills that children should develop.
Some of the benefits of mindfulness training for children include increased self-awareness, social awareness and self-confidence.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve empathy or the ability to understand what another person is thinking or feeling, which improves children’s awareness of others and helps them to build positive relationships.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. When a person is mindful, they:
focus on the present moment
try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future
purposefully concentrate on what’s happening around them
try not to be judgemental about anything they notice, or label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Some of the benefits of mindfulness for children
There are many benefits of mindfulness training for children, including:
increased self-awareness, social awareness, and self-confidence
increased ability to self-regulate their emotions, especially difficult emotions such as fear and anger, through breathing and other grounding techniques
building resilience by giving children skills to help them to cope better with stress, as well as engage more fully with themselves and the world.
Mindfulness training has also been shown to reduce the severity of depression, anxiety and ADHD in children.
What parents can do to encourage mindfulness in children
The best thing parents can do to help their children become more mindful is to commit to some regular mindfulness practises themselves!
Research shows that parents and carers who practice being mindful around their children contribute to improving their child’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. The more present and mindful you are with your children, the more happy, mindful and resilient they will be.
Here are four ways to practice mindfulness with your children:
Dedicate a window of time each week to mindfully play with your child or children. Turn off all other distractions such as TV, and put your mobile away and on silent. Try to give them your full attention during this time and if your mind wanders off to all the things you should be doing, that’s fine – that’s just what minds do! Use your child as an anchor to come back to every time your mind wanders away.
Cooking together can be a great way to spend quality time. Help your child notice the colours, smell and taste of the ingredients as you add them to the meal, and the touch of the different items as you cook.
Create a time for your family to appreciate and savour their food at the start of a meal by spending the first few minutes of dinner in silence, just eating and enjoying the food. It’s a surprisingly nice activity to do with the whole family, and done regularly, can become a lovely ritual.
Mindful teeth brushing
Getting kids to brush their teeth can be a challenge, so why not make it a challenge, by inviting them to try to do it mindfully with you? Invite them to pay attention to the feel of the brush in their mouth and the sensation and taste of the toothpaste. Ask them three things they noticed that was different about their brushing tonight than from the previous night.
Smiling Mind – helping children and parents develop mindfulness mediation skills
Smiling Mind is a free program that provides resources to support the development of mindfulness and meditation skills.
These skills help to manage stress, increase awareness of emotions, improve attention and focus, and can prevent difficulties from getting worse.
The Smiling Mind website and smartphone app provide information about mindfulness and action-based tools to guide children (starting from seven years) and adults through Mindfulness Meditation practices.