A few minutes a day of Mindfulness practices for kids can gradually turn the most explosive moments to less and less stressful.
Emotional regulation is a learned skill; we’re not born knowing how to regulate our emotions, and let’s admit it – many of us are not great at it even as adults. We get angry within a second, and we find ourselves trying to out-yell our children, and the more upset they get, the angrier we get, and everything goes downhill from there.
We’ve been told about self-regulation, but, unfortunately, self-regulation is the last step of this process, after the skill of emotional regulation is learned, internalized, and practiced. And this is only done together, over a long period, with the mindful and patient help from us, parents. There’s no workaround here. If we want to experience more calm, the responsibility for this change is ours.
What is Mindfulness All About?
We’re often overwhelmed with our emotions, feeling that we are absolutely out of control over ourselves or the situation we’re facing. The truth is that it’s not the situation that’s pushing us off the roof; it’s what we’re telling ourselves about the situation. It’s our train of thought, our judgments, that’s responsible for how we feel, not what triggers it.
Practicing Mindfulness allows us to stay anchored to WHAT IS present in front of us, and keeps us away and safe from those dangerous places in our brains that shoot us to immediate “fight-flight” responses.
Why Practice Mindfulness with Your Kids?
It is the same with children, even if a bit different 🙂 If you’ll have a mindful conversation with your child after a tantrum, let’s say about a lollipop, you’ll find that, yes – he wanted the candy, but he also told himself that you don’t love him, and that’s why you’re not giving him the candy.
Practicing Mindfulness allows us, and our children, to draw that imaginary line between what is happening, and what we are telling ourselves about it. As a result, the child will be upset because he wants the candy, but he’ll be significantly less angry because he won’t be telling himself all these hurtful stories.
And as for yourself – you’d be able to see a child who wants a candy he cannot have and not “a spoiled brat that never listens to you.” And these are two completely different children, right? 🙂
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The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness with Your Kids
There are no magic solutions to relationships, parenting, or otherwise. Healthy, empowering, and happy relationships are hard work, but it’s the most gratifying work of them all. Knowing that when you come home, you come to a functional, safe space where everyone coordinates with each other is peace of mind that many of us lack.
Practicing Mindfulness together as a family connects us, teaches us to slow down, notice what is, build trust, and reminds us why we are on this journey of life: because we want to be happy.
The following Mindfulness practices are perfect for children and parents who are just starting; previous knowledge is not required 🙂
15 Mindfulness Practices for Kids
1. Practice gratitude with your child every single day. It’s a great conversation to have before bedtime. What are you grateful for today?
2. Teach your child to notice their bodies. This is another great conversation to have at bedtime. How do your legs feel? Can you feel your back? Your neck? Your fingertips? How does the pillow feel on your cheek?
3. Listen to music. Music is an amazing therapeutic tool, especially when being mindful of it. While listening to music, ask your child to identify the instruments they hear.
S: Stop whatever you are doing
T: Take a deep breath
O: Observe. Look around. What do you see?
The STOP technique is one of the best tools to teach children, but don’t attempt it during a meltdown. Introduce it slowly when emotions are not too high.
5. Color feelings: Not at the heat of the moment, have your child paint or color the emotions they can name. Slowly introduce more and more emotions to their emotional vocabulary.
6. Body Painting: Yes, you read correctly 🙂 Kids love body painting, making it perfect one-on-one time. Paint very slowly, instruct your child to notice how different brushes feel on different areas of their body. You can ask which color to use where, and why. It’s a great conversation starter.
7. Recall a happy moment and describe how you felt. Ask your child to do the same.
8. Teach your child mindful breathing. The concept of breathing deeply to relax is hard for many kids. A good way around it is to place a favorite stuffed toy on your child’s belly when lying down and observing how the toy rises and descends with each breath.
9. Teach your child to slow down: Just like breathing, slowing down, too, is difficult for energetic and sensitive children. A good tip for this is to explore with tasty food. Instruct your child to eat their snack very slowly, and to notice the different tastes, textures, sounds, and smells they feel while eating. You can also try slo-mo walking and ask your child to notice the various muscles and how each muscle feels.
10. Search the Clouds: observe the clouds together and search for shapes, animals, superheroes, or anything else your child is into.
11. Meet each other’s heart: This is one of our favorite activities 🙂 In different situations, when you are happy, then when upset, kneel to your child’s level and have them feel your heartbeat. Then feel theirs. Do it slowly and don’t force it.
12. Practice kindness: We do this in the morning 🙂 I ask Ilay to think of three people he loves, and send them good vibes, happy wishes, and pleasant thoughts.
13. Blow bubbles: All kids love it, all kids do it, but most are not aware of how mindful this action can be when done slowly, with deep breaths, and profound observation of bubbles. Many children will react positively to the suggestion to blow bubbles even in the heat of the moment.
14. Squeeze and let go: Squeezing and letting go of various muscles for a few seconds each is a wonderful relaxation technique. Then, ask your child to do the opposite – to let go and then to squeeze. The difference is mind-blowing.
15. Do nothing. Together. Learning how to slow down and how to allow ourselves and our children to experience WHAT IS, takes time and practice. Simply being together, feeling each other’s presence, is a beautiful Mindfulness practice for our children and us.
These Mindfulness practices for kids are not a magic solution that will make everything right the next day. It is a preventative practice that allows us to breed calm and build a family culture of connection.
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