Children are innate experts when it comes to mindfulness. Have you seen the focus a five-year-old brings to building a sandcastle or drawing her favorite place? How about the complete joy that a trampoline elicits for a group of seven-year-olds? It’s clear they know how to let go of distractions and be in the moment.
But it can be hard to apply that natural ability to be aware of situations like the school stresses, a disagreement with a friend, bullying, or lonelyness. It can be challenging for children (and for all of us) to manage the regular ups and downs of life without letting stress build up and reacting with a fight-or-flight response when things feel uncomfortable or even scary.
This is where learning specific meditation and mindfulness tools can help. Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the surrounding environment in this moment. It also includes bringing acceptance to what we’re experiencing rather suppressing it or labeling things as “good or bad.” Mindfulness is a way to become more comfortable with what we are experiencing, no matter what it is.
A great place to begin this practice with children is to focus on their bodies and breath. Guiding a child to notice her inhale and exhale and how she or he is feeling inside helps to put space between actions and reactions. When children are able to pause and connect to what is happening in the moment, they have more choices of how to respond rather than react to situations. By bringing this kind of practice to our malleable youth, we are giving them tools to resolve conflicts, quell anxiety, boost self-confidence and independence, maintain mental health, and enhance their concentration in classroom settings. By teaching children the power of being mindful, we are giving them a way to access their own resiliency and develop skills that will be a support to them throughout their lives.