The Importance of Mindfulness for Children and Teens
Children and teens are constantly bombarded with a plethora of expectations and pressures unlike ever before. Typically, in our Western Society, children are taught societal norms, what is right and what is wrong. There is a surplus of pressures to stay and be connected digitally, to multi-task on the daily, and to keep up with the hustle. Naturally, children and teens are experiencing anxiety unlike ever before. Teaching children and teens the art of mindfulness at a young age will be a key component of their overall success in today’s society. Mindfulness is an art, and with practice, can be obtained far easier to arrive at than it sounds.
So how do we help our children/teens awaken their inner Mindfulness?
Turn off the technology: I know I know, its hard to live without our phones!! It feels unbearable to take 20 minutes without any social media connection or without any technology whatsoever! Us millenials are bombarded by notifications, emails, texts, and snapchats by the minute, whereas the newest Generazation, GenZ, has really never known a world without connection to social media or instant connection. In fact, many children learn how to navigate an ipad before they learn how to verbally communicate. With persistent interruptions and constant connection, it introduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder, anxiety and many other ailments. Technology has its many advantages. It permits connection, and education in a way unlike ever before. Technology allows businesses to function, and our entire society/government to thrive far more than ever before. On the contrary, technology has proven to have direct ties to greater depression and anxiety. Allowing our kids and teens to take 20 minutes minimum out of the day to be disconnected and reconnected to themselves, to others around them, and to something more tangible, helps teach mindfulness, and allows for healing and peace to enter into their lives in a profound way.
Just pay attention: Ok, speaking in kid terms here. But seriously, the more attention you as the parent can bring to your child’s day to day life, the better! A great way to do this, is simply helping them point out what they see, taste, smell, hear, or feel on the daily. Just to simply notice. To simply pay attention. To take a break and see what’s around.
Breathe: I cannot tell you the amount of times I end up telling my clients and myself this all the time! It sounds so monotonous,so cliche! The ideal type of breathing that I like to teach is inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Inhale peace, joy, and love. Savor the peace, joy and love as you hold for four seconds, and finally, exhale the negativity, envy, stress, hate, or pain for 4 seconds.
Ask Questions: If you notice your child acting out, being resistant, defiant, or just plain grouchy, gently point it out. On the contrary, if you notice they are showing kindness, love, or any other positive attributes acknowledge this with little to no judgment or agenda involved. We are all human, and we all have moods and emotions that shift, yet, when we bring attention to such responses, it allows your child to be more in tune, more aware, and ultimately, more mindful. Asking them, or verbally noticing when an activity brings a sense of calm, versus when an activity brings about more stress. No judgment. Just noticing. On the flip side, you as the parent, are the best teachers by what you do!! So, even if you notice that, “yep I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and I’m needing a little more alone time”, or “I did snap at that person on the road, and I think I am just not in a good space” will ultimately help your child own their emotions, while being more mindful of them if you are too. Let’s be real, kids aren’t going to embrace this practice unless we, as the adults in their life do too! The more you point out some of these observations, it then invites your child to get in touch with their own emotions, while taking ownership over how they respond as well. If they have a test the next day, or perhaps have to be in a place with lots of people, ask them where they feel the tension in their body? Simply noticing it is the first step in mindfulness.
Pray, Meditate, and Listen.. Take time to yourself. Time to pray, meditate, or whatever it is that you do opens up our awareness.
Visualize your calm space.. This one is more for the older kids and teens. Ask them to visualize a place they felt the most calm. Often, people tell me a place that’s familiar, such as their grandparents cabin, or being snuggled up at home by a warm fire. Here are some other helpful hints. Your idea of heaven? The beach, the river? Notice the sounds, the smells and the feelings that surround you in this space…
Mindfulness is a simple, yet hard practice to achieve, especially for children, teens, or adults with attention deficit tendencies. Mindfulness is a practice that must be practiced consistently to reap its full benefits. I will introduce some different specific skills to teach kiddos and teens alike, while identifying more specifically, how such a simple skill can help with attention deficit struggles, or anxiety. Stay tuned. And, I’d love to hear your experience with mindfulness. What works for you? What doesn’t? Let me know! Happy New Year everyone!