Mindfulness

Mindful Adults, Mindful Kids

Five mindfulness strategies to help kids (and adults) flourish.

Posted Dec 16, 2018

Giving kids and teens the gift of mindfulness is like planting seeds in a garden. Pause, breathe, notice, return – these are quiet actions that cultivate conditions for growth and well-being.

Strong evidence links mindfulness with positive emotion, enhanced life satisfaction, compassion, and overall wellbeing.  Mindfulness practice can reduce risk for illness and stimulate physical and emotional health (Goleman and Davidson, 2017; Willard, 2016).

Sunset/Pixabay
Source: Sunset/Pixabay

Whatever our role in our kids’ lives – as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends -- mindfulness starts with us and our own practices. Psychologist Lea Waters (2017) points out several benefits of mindful parenting.  Gains can include improved parenting in the moment; modeling effective ways to deal with relational conflicts and stressful situations; and mindful parents coaching their kids to become more mindful.                                                             

5 Strategies to Plant Seeds of Mindfulness 

It’s hard to share mindfulness benefits with kids if we haven’t experienced it ourselves. Engaging in mindfulness and modeling mindful awareness for young folks helps them become interested and motivated to try it.  Just one breath with awareness can transform any moment.

1.  S.T.O.P. -- This easy acronym is a reminder to plant daily mindful moments (Goldstein,2013).

  • Stop
  • Take a Breath
  • Observe  (notice feelings, thoughts, sensations without judgement)                                      
  • Proceed

STOP can be practiced within ordinary activities, such as: morning awakening; while tooth-brushing; walking to the kitchen for breakfast; during a break at work or recess; before a meal; in bed at night.

2.  Find a quiet place -- Our world is busy and we can forget to pause.  Find a quiet space for brief moments to sit with a youngster to read a book, share a conversation, express love and gratitude, or say a prayer.

3.  Mindful Eating – Adding a moment of mindful attention to eating can transform the experience. Pause to notice what you’re eating, to approach the food as a new experience, or to express gratitude before eating.  

Stop. Take a Breath. Observe -- pay attention to the experience of that moment. Proceed.  

For example, pause momentarily when your family sits down for dinner.  “Let’s wait a moment and just take a breath.  Let’s each share one thing we are thankful for today -- even a word will do. OK, let’s eat this great food!”

4.  3 R’s – Rest, Recognize, Return -- offer a simple process and mindful language when your mind wanders (Willard, 2018). 

  • Rest your awareness – Use an “anchor” to help you to pay attention,  such as the breath (“I am breathing in, I am breathing out”); a word; sounds you’re hearing, such as quiet music, ocean waves, the traffic.
  • Recognize when (and where) your mind and thoughts wander. 
  • Return to your anchor when you notice yourself wandering. Repeat this process as many times as needed.

5.   Plant Seeds to Nurture the Garden of Well-Being – Consider these self-inquiries:

  • How can you incorporate a few moments of mindfulness in your day?  
  • If you already practice mindfulness, how can you add a bit more? 
  • How can you share moments of mindfulness with kids in your life?

References

Goldstein, E. (2013). Stressing out? S.T.O.P. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/stressing-out-stop/

Goleman D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. New York, NY: Avery.

Kabat-Zinn ( 2012). Mindfulness for beginners: reclaiming the present moment - and your life. Sounds True. CO. 

Niemiec, R.M. (2014). Mindfulness & character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Waters, L. (2017). How the new science of strength-based parenting can help your child and your teen to flourish. Penguin Random House, New York, NY.

Willard, C. (2016). Growing up mindful. Essential practices to help children, teens, and families find balance, calm, and resilience.  Boulder, CO: Sounds True.