Developing emotional management and intelligence can be a tough time for children, as they are feeling new emotions that they don’t recognize and it often comes out as frustration or tantrums. Mindfulness is a wonderful way to help them develop coping and emotional skills while teaching them a valuable life skill. But how do we teach our children this idea-especially if we are still learning it ourselves?
Children are more likely to respond to a physical activity. For teaching mindfulness, a good starting point is to lay with a stuffed animal on their belly. As they relax and take deep breaths, have them focus on the fall and rise of the animal and how their breath fills them and releases. Breathing exercises are stress relievers and give you a spiritual, grounded feeling.
Yoga and mindfulness often go hand in hand, and is a great way to get kids involved. Start by teaching your child one or two animal or nature based poses to help them when their feeling frustrated, i.e. perching like a wise owl when they don’t know what to do, or a strong, steady mountain when they are uneasy or frustrated. Just having a go-to pose to calm down and take a minute to themselves is a way to let them express how they are feeling and understand how to process it. According to John Gottman of Gottman institute, children are happier when you let them express their feelings and they are validated. So, teach them so helpful poses, and when you see them take them, use it as code to help them through their feelings when they are ready to talk.
Be the Example
Perhaps the most important way to teach children anything is to lead by example. Set an atmosphere in your home and family of mindfulness, positivity, and self-care. Let your child in on your own routine, and let them be your motivation. The unfiltered honesty of a child can be a great motivator: explain what your own goals are and let them be your motivator or accountability coach. Children are often our very best reminder in life to slow down and be present- using this to your advantage will be a lifelong reminder to your child of the importance of mindfulness.
Just a few implementations of these fun ideas a week are more than enough to get started with teaching children mindfulness. Never underestimate the emotional needs and stressors your child has on a daily basis. An early start will send them into adulthood with a unique skill. Making mindfulness a family practice will make your family closer and more understanding, and help your children to blossom into well-rounded adults.