Mindfulness seems like one of those buzzwords everyone seems to use, alongside “smart”, “green”, “bio”, “creativity” and so on. However, mindfulness is much more than just a word, this is a way of life. Mindfulness trains resilience, offers you better insights about your own choices and in general allows you to make much more “dear” choices. By “dear” I mean choices which truly resonate with you and inspire you to move on and achieve your goals. It reduces anxiety, improves mental health and significantly encourages optimism. Thus, mindfulness matters and benefits you in many ways. Which is more, it can bring a lot of benefits also to your little ones.This is exactly what I would like to talk about in this short post.
To begin with, when is the right moment to start? I truly believe that the earlier the better, yet realistically speaking, the moment would be somewhat around the age of four. This is when I see a lot of value for a kid to learn to articulate her emotions and to learn to understand (and name) her feelings.
Just a couple of days ago our daughter was crying desperately because she fell and she hurt herself and then on top her favourite “lipstick” was gone, and all those “horrible things” happened almost at the same time. The point was: she got herself into a hysterical state and when a kid (actually any person!) is in such a state you cannot just stop crying on demand! That’s physically impossible. Our daughter wanted to stop crying. She even got angry at herself that tears still kept on rolling down her cheeks. She said that out loud! And that is what I really liked – the fact that she realized she needed to stop, but she couldn’t because in her own words:
“my brain doesn’t allow me, because my brain is so sad; and those tears – they just run down! I am angry that they run down!”.
She named her state and she named what was happening to her. She is 4 years and 3 months at this moment! Great job! It took me much longer to learn that skill for myself!
Actually, in general I find it very important and very valuable when she expresses not only what she feels, but also what exactly makes her sad or what irritates her. There is still a lot to learn and a lot of moments to work on. Yet, I truly believe she is on a perfect track.
When browsing through psychology resources online, I found several good exercises to do with kids to improve their mindfulness. Those are:
- teach a kid to identify smell, notice it, describe it, define if it is a pleasant smell or not and why? Same with taste.
- teach a kid to listen to her own heartbeat (could be combined with learning to meditate, by the way)
- teach a kid to notice certain sensations and, like, really: pause, name, describe.
- another truly good one – the so-called “buddy-breathing”, when you put a toy on kid’s belly and then ask a kid to breathe and notice how a toy is moving up and down with the breath (also good in meditation context).
All that helps a kid to truly connect with her own body and mind and through that also connect with the world. In the end mindfulness is all about understanding and connection, while understanding and connection start within.
To draw the line, the earlier kids learn to practice mindfulness, the easier it will be for them to deal with anxiety, conflicts, to understand their own way and make their own choices. And yes, if you don’t practice it yourself… – the best moment was twenty years ago, yet the next best moment is – right now.