Mindfulness & Our Children

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Mindfulness is a concept that has been around for thousands of years, yet seems to be getting much more attention as of late. Adults (and I’m sad to say children as well) are more stressed than ever, and more connected than ever. Despite all this “connection” we are faced with greater anxieties, bullying, mistreatment, and I truly feel that the younger generation isn’t taking full advantage of the beauties of life. But what can we do about it?

That’s where mindfulness comes in. Google dictionary defines the term as, “1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. 2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”. #2 is what I’m talking about here, now. If we can find little ways to help our children accept and process their feelings and situations in the present, I believe this will help them when faced with difficulties such as bullying (whether it’s cyber or in person), empathy, anxiety, or any other challenge whether it be in the classroom, with friends, or on the sports field. Studies have shown that when we teach our children to slow down and soak in the surroundings, rather than whiz by them and try to change or confront every little thing, they experience the following:

  1. It boosts their self-esteem & emotional awareness (ie: knowing that something like anxiety will pass, and feeling confident in dealing with tough situations)
  2.  It encourages positive behavior. This means we will have kids who understand and feel empathy, happiness, and like they are in control of their thoughts / feelings.
  3. It decreases feelings of aggression, and promotes conflict resolution among their peers.

Now, on to the “doing” part. I’ve just begun my journey with my 3 children (and myself) to achieve mindfulness, but here’s what we are working on:

  1. Use sensory tools. My 4-year-old daughter has a speech delay, so she sometimes learns best when using visuals to express herself. I made up index cards with different feelings on them, then asked her to point to them throughout the day. When she was having a tantrum and couldn’t calm down enough to tell me what was wrong, I laid out the cards on the floor, read them to her (loudly as she was crying), and asked her to point to the ones that showed how she was feeling. As expected, she pointed to the mad and sad ones. Simple right? Well, then I asked her to turn the cards over. On the other side of each card was an activity. On the mad one, I had written, “draw a picture of a pizza pie, then pretend to smell the pizza, and blow on the pizza. Repeat the smelling / breathing on the pizza 3 times.”. To my surprise, my daughter walked over to her art table and did it. Yes, I helped her draw the pizza, as she was too upset to focus, but once we started the breathing, she was able to calm herself. Afterwards, I asked her what she was feeling, and she said “happy”. I told her it’s ok to feel mad and sad sometimes, as long as we can deal with it and get back to feeling happy.
  2. Take it slow. Rather than trying to create little soldiers of mindfulness {lol}, I just started asking questions randomly throughout the day, such as, “Do you hear how sweet that bird’s song is?” or “look at how many clouds are in the sky today”. Other days I’ll ask, “how does that make you feel?” while reading a story, or “why is this your favorite blanket? Is it the color or because it’s so soft?”. To children, I’m just asking basic questions. But what they don’t realize is that I’m actually making them slow down and look, smell, feel, touch, what’s going on in the present moment.
  3. Express gratitude. I recently saw a pinterest post on creating a gratitude journal for children. I loved the idea. I don’t know about you, but my kids spend way too much time complaining about what they don’t have, instead of being thankful for what they do have. I’ve asked my 7-year-old to write one thing daily, while my 4-year-old and I work together on hers. Then at dinner, we have the option of sharing our journal entries. We don’t remember to do it every day, but we are getting there. Here’s the link I used if you’d like to print one out too: http://enjoythelearningjourney.com/gratitude-journal-for-kids/
  4. Get outside and experience nature. I can’t stress this one enough. I’m noticing that being outside will most likely be a theme through most of my blog posts, but it’s a suggestion which is so important. For children, animals, and adults alike, nature creates a calming place for self-reflection, learning, calming, and improving health. This one is easy for our family, as we love to go kayaking, play at the playground, and go on hikes.

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I hope this post has a bit of resonance with your own lifestyle, and if not, that’s ok -everyone is different. It’s just my personal opinion that we need to raise a generation who is more accepting, loving, and mindful of themselves & those around them. My hopes for the future are that I raise 3 tiny humans to become kind, compassionate, confident women that can positively contribute to the world, and create their own happiness.

 

xo Robin

 

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