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Why – and How – To Raise a More Mindful Child

mindfulness parenting May 13, 2024
 Why – and How – To Raise a More Mindful Child

The world today is a different place to the one we grew up in. Not literally, of course, but the tools needed to navigate a positive well-being existence for children are in rife demand. Bullying, for instance, is now readily available online with subtle, insidious effects. Teaching mindfulness – which, at its most basic, is simply paying full attention to the moment and not being overwhelmed by it – at a young age can nip it in the bud by promoting greater compassion.

But so many more situations can play on a young mind’s mental health: exam anxiety in adolescents; language comprehension in toddlers; and emotional confusion in new situations for any age. It’s no wonder teaching mindfulness to school children has been seen as a route to enhanced life satisfaction, positive outlook, and effective emotion regulation.

The research is plentiful, and exceptionally positive, where the benefits of mindfulness not only improve cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well-being, but may provide long-term life improvements. In fact, some studies suggest that quality of life in adulthood, social prospects, mental health, and educational outcomes are intrinsically linked to and influenced by emotional, psychological, and social well-being during childhood.

Even were it for nothing more than to stave off boredom, mindfulness in children would be invaluable. But tweaking mindful activities so they’re specifically younger mind-friendly (older children and teens will typically need more of a reason “why” before getting started) will likely result in the following:

  1.  Improved attention: Including better performance on objective tasks that require an extensive concentration span.
  2.  Emotional regulation: Mindfulness creates changes in the brain that correspond to less reactivity, and better ability to engage in tasks even when emotions are activated.
  3.  Greater compassion: Those randomly assigned to mindfulness training are more likely to help someone in need, and have greater self-compassion.
  4.  Reduction of stress and anxiety: Mindfulness reduces feelings of stress and improves anxiety and distress when placed in a stressful social situation.

Learn more in the Emotional Well-Being for Children Online Short Course. 

Surely, then, that looks after the “why” you should consider teaching your child to be more mindful. But what about the “how”? There are innumerable ways to bring a mindfulness routine into your child’s life – such as breathing exercises; or incorporating gratitude to highlight abundance – no matter what age they might be. Here are five of the best:

  1.  Meditation: Not all types of mediation are suitable for children, but mindfulness meditation is proven to bring calm to an overwhelmed brain. The younger a child is, the more likely they are to have a short attention span – but they’re also likely to want to mimic and be involved in activities. This is an excellent opportunity to lead by example and practice mindful meditation together with your child. It might not be a long session, but to a relentlessly curious mind, bringing even a temporary sense of “being present” can help instill a quiet composure.
  2.  Dinner Time Reflections: Mindfulness is a psychological state of awareness, but it’s also the practice that promotes it. Sitting around the dinner table is a moment as fine as any to draw attention to and focus on positives from your child’s day. Encourage questions like: “What fun things did you do today? What are you grateful for? What did you learn?” The life-changing benefits of positive thinking are the subject of a number of books, and there’s no reason why it can’t be instilled as a skill from a young age. 
  3.  Mindful Eating: Another one for the table, or even just at snack time – and perhaps the simplest of all mindful activities – is drawing attention to a meal. How often do we all scoff sustenance down with little regard for the actual food before us? Prompting considerations like: “What does it smell like? Does it feel smooth? How does it taste?”  can instruct your child to use all their senses to appreciate what they’re eating, which will keep them in the present. 
  4.  Nature Walks: As a family, taking walks together in the fresh air offer openings to clear the head, break away from technological shackles, and appreciate the world around you. Becoming aware and being present in the moment is easy with prompts to even toddlers. “Can you hear the birds? What colors can you see in the leaves? Can you see any fun shapes in the clouds? Watch the way the trees sway!” Regardless of age, finding focus in nature’s timelessness helps us become aware of the present, letting an overactive brain put the worries of tomorrow, or concerns of yesterday, to the back of the mind. 
  5.  The Recognition Mission: Especially successful in a group situation, setting your child on a mission to recognize when other children perform acts of kindness will inevitably help them develop an appreciation for others, and aim to emulate the kindness of others. If they believe you are mindful and compassionate – and if you will be so – your child will intentionally act mindfully themselves. Starting from a young age will, over time, ingrain this kindness in their nature, helping them to identify gratitude, and be more present in every moment by seeking out the positive.

Having more mindful children is its own reward for parents, and might even help the youngsters sleep a little more soundly, but the likely benefits to your child’s future well-being is an incredibly tasty cherry on top.

All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: Mindfulness in Primary School Children as a Route to Enhanced Life Satisfaction, Positive Outlook, and Effective Emotion Regulation; Can Children Be Mindful; Mindfulness-Oriented Meditation for Primary School Children: Effects on Attention and Psychological Well-Being; Mindfulness Training Helps Kids Sleep Better; The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Interventions On Cognition and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents – A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

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