Why Kids Should Be Taught Mindfulness
Many parents worry about the society their kids are growing up in. There’s academic pressure, peer pressure, bullying, social media, and countless other things to worry about, and as a result, kids are increasingly suffering from anxiety.
So what can we do? We can give them a tool that will help them navigate the world with calmness, curiosity, and acceptance. That tool is mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word in recent years, and it often goes hand in hand with meditation. But mindfulness is not about sitting in the lotus position with your eyes shut while you desperately try to shut off your thinking. It’s about being in the present moment, and noticing your thoughts and feelings but not judging them or reacting to situations. Imagine how less stressed you would be if you were able to take a pause before saying or doing something that might only make whatever situation you’re in worse.
What could mindfulness do for children?
It could give them the ability to stop and think before they act
Learning to pause and focus their attention on something else briefly can stop them doing something ill-advised, like saying or doing something spiteful to one of their friends or a child in their class. It’s essentially about learning self-control, which is an important skill to have.
It can make them more curious
Learning how to be mindful can make kids take more of an interest in what’s going on inside of them, and around them in that moment.
It can encourage openness
Mindfulness teaches the acknowledgement of feelings, no matter how painful or unpleasant they might be, and this is a much more mentally healthy way to live than trying to avoid pain or push it down.
It teaches acceptance
Acceptance of the present moment, and of the thoughts and feelings they are having will make kids feel far less stressed and better about themselves. Mindfulness teaches that having certain feelings like anger isn’t wrong and that you should notice that you’re angry, ask yourself why, and let it go.
Mindfulness isn’t easy, but it’s worthwhile
Studies have shown that almost half of the time, we’re thinking about something other than what we are doing. So you might be walking the dog and thinking about the argument you had with your other half last night, or you’re playing with the kids but thinking about how that annoying woman at work was winding you up. But let me ask you, does this kind of thinking benefit you in any way? No it doesn’t, in fact, letting your mind wander, especially onto negative or anxiety-inducing things makes you unhappy, pure and simple.
What the research says about mindfulness
Research studies have linked mindfulness to many benefits including better brain function, better concentration, improved memory and learning capacity, reduced anxiety and depression, better emotional regulation, improved immunity, lower blood pressure, and much more.
Some studies looked specifically at the benefits of mindfulness for kids, and they found that mindfulness improves social skills, self-control, concentration, academic performance, and wellbeing. The research also found that kids who did mindfulness sessions had higher confidence and self-esteem, less stress, anxiety, and depression, and in kids with ADHD, there were less incidences of aggression and behavioural problems.
So there’s a lot of potential benefits of mindfulness for you and your kids. But okay, I hear you ask, I could probably lie down and meditate for 10 minutes and manage to at least relax, but my kids can’t sit still even for a few minutes!
Well, as we mentioned earlier, mindfulness is not meditation. Mindfulness does not require kids to sit cross-legged with their eyes closed, it can be practiced whenever and wherever they are.
Mindfulness is not switching the mind off. It’s about being actively aware of what’s going on, within you and around you. It’s about being in the moment, not falling asleep or chilling out.
A mindfulness practice like focusing on the breathing can be done in just a few minutes. When kids do something as a group, you’ll be surprised at how much they take cues from each other and pay attention for longer.
Mindfulness does take work. Kids these days are constantly distracted by technology, so their brains might need a little longer to adapt to being a human ‘being’ rather than a human ‘doing.’
An easy mindfulness practice for kids
Stop, look, listen
Get them to stop what they are doing for one minute.
Ask them to be still and take a big deep breath in, then out.
Get them to look at what’s around them. Ask them what they see. What colours do they notice? What have they noticed that they don’t usually notice?
Ask them to close their eyes and tell you what they can hear. Is it the trees rustling, the birds singing, or distant traffic?
Now ask what they can smell. Can they smell flowers, or the grass?
Ask them what they can feel. The sun on their face? The wind in their hair?
Then ask what they can taste. Maybe they’ve just had lunch and they can taste the crisps they just ate?
Then finally, ask them to listen to how they are feeling. Ask them if they found it easy or hard to stop their mind wandering, and ask them where their mind wandered to.
STEAM Lab is a social enterprise that runs classes and workshops aimed at teaching kids about science, technology, engineering, art, maths, and mindfulness- all while having fun!
We believe that every child deserves the chance to reach their potential and have a brighter future, whatever their background.
Contact us to find out more about our classes and workshops.