How to encourage mindfulness from a young age
In the last few years, society has been working hard to try and become more aware and open to mental health issues and with this new way of thinking has come new terms and practises. Mindfulness is one of those terms and you’d be forgiven for not really understanding what this exactly means, what the benefits are and how to introduce your child to it.
What is mindfulness?
If you’re interested in learning to be mindful, this is the first place to start, understanding exactly what mindfulness is, and, it’s not complicated. Mindfulness is simply paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you. This simple act of being more present and more aware of the here and now can have huge benefits for mental wellbeing and be able to deal with stress.
How to encourage mindfulness in children?
1) Practise what you preach
As with anything, before trying to teach somebody something, you need to really understand the subject yourself first. There are many different books and apps that you can read and download to help you understand what being mindful truly is. Make it part of your own daily routine and be consistent with it, this will allow you to experience the benefits as much as your son or daughter.
2) Explain clearly
Depending on the age of your child, they may not fully understand why you are trying to teach them about mindfulness but you should endeavour to try and explain what you are trying to get them to achieve. Giving them a goal and something to aim for will help focus them. Trying to get a child to focus on something intensely for any amount of time is a hard task in itself, but we do have some tips coming up to help with this.
3) Practise, practise, practise
There are some fun ways to introduce mindfulness into your child’s life, such as taking a walk. This walk, however, needs to be a little different from your normal stroll. Rather than just focussing on your destination, with your child, actively try to observe things that you haven’t noticed before. Try to be more aware of the local surroundings that you and your child would normally just walk past, a great time to do this is on the morning walk to school.
Learning to breathe
Breathing practise is usually associated with mindfulness, but asking a child to sit and concentrate on their breath and clear their mind for 2 mins is not easy. A breathing buddy, however, can make this more interesting – try doing this with your son or daughter. Both chose a toy or stuffed animal, lay on the floor and place the toy on your tummy. Set a timer for 1 minute to start with. Now for that minute, ask your child to breathe in and out slowly, concentrating on watching their breathing buddy going up and down, nice and steadily.
How are you feeling?
Getting your child to give you an honest and thought out answer about how they are feeling can also be a tricky task but practising being open about all of their emotions, good and bad, will help them to grow into a more balanced adult. Introduce a weather report, where you ask your child to describe their mood using weather. If they are happy but maybe a bit worried about something, it might be a sunny day but they can see some clouds approaching. If they are sad then it might be a rainy day for example.
It can be easy for children to forget to appreciate just how lucky they are, one easy daily mindfulness task can be at dinner time to each take it turns to list just one thing about your day or your life that you are grateful for.
What are the benefits of practising mindfulness?
The benefits of practising mindfulness include increased attention span, by practising being able to focus on simple tasks and clearing their minds and breathing, children are then able to practise this focus in other areas of their lives.
Learning to be mindful will help when dealing with emotions such as stress and upset, it allows them to be more in touch with themselves and what they can do to mitigate these negative emotions. Setting in place healthy habits for adult life is one of the biggest benefits for encouraging the practice of mindfulness.
Incorporating methods to encourage a healthy lifestyle, both mentally, as well as physically is important to us at Kings School in Plymouth. If you would like to learn more about our school, you can request a prospectus here or visit us on an open day.