January 13, 2018

Finding a Mindful Routine for Children

If you’re a parent and have experienced the benefits of integrating mindfulness into your daily routine, you might want to think about how to share this gift with your kids.  Whether you meditate or simply take a few moments each day to focus on the thoughts and feelings that surround you, you know how soothing it can be to concentrate on the here and now. Children respond in the same positive way as adults to mindful activities, and they’re an important part of teaching about feelings, impulse control, and gratitude.

The whole concept of mindfulness can be difficult for young children to grasp. Mindfulness may best be explained as a special way of paying attention. Your child needs to understand that there are no rules and no right answers. It’s just a way of having some quiet time to notice what our senses are doing – what we can hear, smell, taste, feel and observe around us.

Mindful Exercises for Kids

  • Breathing. Have your child pay attention to their breathing by placing their favorite stuffed animal on their tummy. They’ll focus on the movement of the toy as they breathe slowly in and out.

  • Listening. Find a peaceful spot outside and, with eyes closed, explore how many sounds your child can hear. If your child likes to share, ask her how those sounds make her feel, and which ones she likes best.

  • Smelling. Invite your child to help you make a meal when you’re cooking something with lots of different ingredients. Encourage him to describe what the smells remind him of, and how each makes him feel right now.

  • Taste. There’s no reason your child can’t enjoy the same exercise that’s become a staple for millions of people starting on the journey to mindful awareness: the mindful eating of a raisin. You can use any kind of food your child enjoys, but ask them to pretend they’re from another planet and have never seen this object before. What does it look, feel and smell like? How does it really taste?

  • Touch. Put several random items into a pillowcase and have your child reach in and hold one with their eyes closed. Even if they think they know what it is, they should describe the texture, weight and feel, examining the familiar in a way they never have before.

  • Sight. Whenever you go for a walk, try to find things you’ve never noticed before. Children love this game, and they become incredibly observant over time as familiar landmarks require them to really look carefully in order to keep playing.

Making Mindfulness Part of Daily Life

Once your child is accustomed to mindfulness, they’ll start to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. Studies have shown impressive results where children who practice mindfulness were more compassionate, less aggressive, and better able to control their behavior. Your kids are still going to complain, argue and race around the house, but talking to them about inappropriate behavior should become much easier.

Parents who put their kids in a “time-out” rarely expect that they’ll do much more than calm down. Telling them to “think about it” isn’t particularly helpful when most children haven’t practiced analyzing their feelings or paying attention to what’s going on in the moment. A child sitting alone to think about not wanting to share is more likely to stew about past injustices than focus on how their behavior just made someone else feel.

A child who is becoming more mindfully aware stands a much better chance of learning from a ten-minute time-out. Asking them to meditate on what just happened is a meaningful request and doesn’t constitute punishment if it’s something they do as part of their daily routine. Trading punishment for mindfulness also develops critical life skills for adulthood. Mom or dad won’t always be there to monitor good behavior, and you’re never too young to learn how to listen inwardly.

Not all children are receptive to mindful activities, but if they are part of your daily routine, they will inevitably become part of theirs. Start slow, lead by example, and try something new every day. You may find the results truly astounding.

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