Mindfulness is the act of being present to our world. It allows us time and space to consider our behaviors, our actions, and our words. Most parents think that sounds like an excellent thing to teach their children.
And it would appear that the benefits of teaching mindfulness to children has some great results. Children can improve their ability to pay attention, particularly in school. They can learn to calm themselves down when something upsets them, allowing them to make better decisions on how to respond to their emotional triggers.
How can this fabulous technique be taught to children?
First, lead by example. It will be very, very difficult to teach a child to be mindful if you don’t have a mindfulness practice yourself. Think about it, how can you teach anyone anything if you haven’t perfected some of the techniques yourself first? It is a little like teaching your child to play the piano when you don’t even know what middle C is.
But don’t stop reading because you don’t know how to do this. To begin a practice of mindfulness requires just a few minutes a day. Start with a meditation practice of five minutes a day. Build it up to ten or fifteen minutes as you can. Demonstrate mindfulness in your daily life.
One of my favorite ways to introduce the concept of mindfulness is in the food we eat. For anyone who is not visually impaired, have them put on a blindfold and then taste various foods like a grape, a square of cheese, a cracker, and a piece of chocolate. As they taste each one, have them report what it felt like in their hands, on their lips, in their mouth. What happened when they bit down on it, chewed it, swallowed it.
Practicing mindfulness at mealtime helps everyone to notice the food that they eat, and actually enjoy it better.
Take your children outdoors, and again have them close their eyes. What do they feel? What do they hear? What do they smell? Teaching mindfulness merely brings back our awareness to the world we live in.
To teach a child about breathing mindfulness, you might consider using a stuffed animal. Have the child lie down on the floor and put the stuffed animal on their chest and abdomen. As they breathe, teach them to notice how the animal rises and falls with each deep inhalation and exhalation.
Just a couple of mindful techniques will give your child the opportunity to be more fully present to the world. It will also help them to better manage their emotions and emotional responses. You, too, will enjoy your life more once a regular practice of mindfulness has been established.