Seven Mindfulness Techniques for Children and Teens
Seven Mindfulness Techniques for Children and Teens:
Happy MLK Day. Before I get into this blog, I just want to take a moment to honor Martin Luther King, who he was, and the ways his life shaped how our country is today. He had a dream that shook history in a way I am so grateful for. He was a brave and courageous soul. May we always strive to carry his legacy in the best way that we can.
Wow, we are already halfway through the January! I hope this year is going so well for all of you moms, dads, teens and whoever else may be tuning into this!
This weekend, I did a training around play therapy and art as well as the use of sand play. It really reminded me how much I love what I do, and reinstated the passion I have for kids, teens, and parents through this difficult journey of life! It really invoked some of what I want to share in this blog post, but before I get started, I just want you to take a moment to breathe and regulate. Whether that’s through moving your body, or simply taking some deep breaths. Get regulated in your nervous system, and just notice what comes up for you. Feel better? OK, lets get started!
First of all, I want to discuss the whole goal of mindfulness. What’s this all about? Why is it a big deal anyway? Well, really, there are different angles on this topic, but ultimately, in the way I present mindfulness, the overall goal is develop a greater sense of awareness to our present, our self, others, and God, while allowing our nervous system to regulate. The training I went through this week emphasized the importance of regulating our nervous system. Why? Well, because when we do regulate our nervous system, it allows energy to flow through us as we begin to feel more centered and balanced. Regulation allows us to better attach to ourselves which is imperative for any type of emotional healing to take place. When our nervous system is not regulated, we are more prone to burn-out, addictive patterns, and sickness. That’s why this whole practice is so important in our day to day lives. And, the sooner we can introduce and invite our children into this practice, the more regulated, healthy and independent they will become in the long run. So, here are some fun mindfulness techniques for kids and parents to do together, or just for the kiddo to do independently, or a bit of both.
Jenga: Yep! Talk about focus. A game of Jenga is something that the family can do together. The game of Jenga really symbolizes the need to find balance in order to not topple over. What a metaphor! And don’t forget to breathe through the game. Emphasizing breath throughout this game really allows the nervous energy that emerges throughout the game to be regulated.
Art- allow your child or teen to get creative. Children and teens are already creative and vivacious beings, and art is an imperative medium not only for their development, but also for regulation. Painting, sketching, play-doh, sidewalk chalk, or just plain old fashioned coloring books are an incredibly simple yet mindful activity. Depending on the age of your child, set a timer, for 8-20 minutes for them to create something independently. Then, after they are done, ask them what the experience was like. Ask them how they are feeling, and maybe, any thoughts they have. Be intentional to take this mindfulness time.
Baking or Cooking: Wow, this is an incredible activity to do with children and teens alike. But let them do some of the work. :). Ask them to read or follow the instructions for measuring, while they are being mindful throughout the process. This is actually another outlet of creativity to be expressed as well as building and increasing a positive relationship between you and the child. Even if you wanted to, maybe allow this time to create slime or play-doh! These are great mindfulness tools that can be used even after the experience.
Mindfulness Nature Walk with a hot or cold beverage: OK time to get more serious here. Of course, this activity works best when its nice outside, and here in Colorado, as I write out this blog, it just is cold and snowy. But you can definitely get your winter jacket, boots and hat on for a mindfulness nature walk even in the snow and cold! In this practice, really ask your child to look around, and ask what they notice. In this type of mindfulness activity, attend to all the five senses. What do they see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. Bring awareness to the present moment.
Do a puzzle: This is a fun mindfulness activity that children and teens can see the progress of the puzzle, yet still have their attention focused on the present moment. Really, for teens, this may be a great one to nurture the relationship you have with them through this tough time.
“Drum” Together: Ok this one may be my favorite. It was in fact inspired by a workbook I love called “Mindfulness Skills for Kids and Teens” This is a mindfulness activity that you can do with your kiddo. It brings attunement to the relationship. You can use an actual drum if you happen one of those, or some pencils and a book will do just fine. Even your hands on your lap. Create patterns in your drumming asking your child to repeat the pattern. Ask them what they notice, the vibrations, and how the sound feels in their ear. It can be quite appeasing.
Taste Tester Game: This is a fun activity that really engages children! Get 3-4 different types of food. They can be things such as grapes, apple slices, chocolate, or raisins. Just make sure they are all unique in taste and texture. Each of you take turns to sample only one bite. Notice the sensation, the texture, and the temperature. And make this a game, thus the taste tester game! Tell them that you are each pretending to be taste testers for a famous chef show.
We often don’t connect mindfulness with children. In fact, their energy level seems to be the opposite of mindfulness. But in all reality, they really do possess the ability to be mindful. Its simply a matter of adapting and honing into what mindfulness skills or activities work best for them and meet them where they are at.