Want a kinder, calmer kid? Try mindfulness. | NPNparents.org

Written by: Paulette Janus

How to instill mindfulness in your child

Photo credit: Mark Goebel/Flickr

How many times have you said to yourself “just breathe”? Do you encourage your child to do the same? Stress is not reserved solely for adults. Research within schools has shown that teaching children mindfulness leads to greater kindness, improved focus, more self-control, fewer mood difficulties, and higher academic scores and graduation rates. What’s not to love? 

Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts and feelings, helping us to focus on the present moment, so we can appreciate the good times and better manage the bad. How to raise a mindful child? Try these tips:

1. Be a role model. Children are observant and follow our actions. If we want them to be more mindful, it starts with us being more mindful, so participate in these tips with them. Make it a family affair.

2. Explain mindfulness in an easy-to-understand manner. Use a snow globe or put sand in a jar with water. Shake the snow-globe or jar and liken the swirling snow or sand to the thoughts racing through our minds. As the snow or sand settles, that is how mindfulness helps settle our thoughts.

3. Make it special. Have a mindful place in your home, as you might have a homework place. Set aside a quiet corner with a mat, soft pillows, stuffed animals or anything else that your children find comforting. 

4. Use a timer. Set aside a few minutes after school or after an activity to sit quietly. It can be difficult for children to remain still. They will find this easier if they know it is time-limited. 

5. Focus on breathing. Tell your child to visualize taking a deep breath to blow out a candle. Take three deep breaths collectively as a family before dinner. At bedtime, have your child place a stuffed animal on their stomach and “rock” the animal to sleep with their breathing.

6. Give thanks. Each day have family members list one thing for which they are thankful. Make a mindful board to write it down, as a visual reminder. 

7. Practice mindful minutes. During activities, such as taking a walk, designate one minute to observe the things around you and what your senses experience (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). If your child loves superheroes, call this using your “Spidey-senses.” Then take another minute to express your experiences.

8. Watch the “weather report.” In Sitting Still Like a Frog, Eline Snel encourages children to “summon the weather report that best describes their feelings at the moment.” This helps children recognize their internal feeling state: cloudy, sunny, stormy. We can teach children that although we cannot change our feelings, we can recognize them and respond appropriately. 

9. Encourage imagery. Liken negative thoughts to writing in the sand, encouraging your child to visualize a wave coming onto shore and washing away the writing. Or think of a breeze blowing out a candle. 

10. Be realistic. Expect your child to fidget, lose focus or not want to participate. This is normal. Encourage them to keep trying and praise their efforts.

Paulette Janus, LCSW of Janus Behavioral Health Services, is a therapist, family mediator, and divorce and co-parenting coach with offices in Lakeview. She has been an NPN member since 2012. 

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Posted on June 10, 2016 at 3:29 PM