The New Year is a great time for families to begin a mindfulness routine! Mindfulness is living in the moment without judgment and has many benefits. Many of us though, kids and adults included, don’t naturally function this way.
Mindfulness can be easily learned by your whole family and used throughout the day. It typically involves specific (but simple) activities like breathing exercises, time in nature, or a bedtime routine of sharing affirmations. Here are some great ways of how you can work Mindfulness into your family’s day.
MORNING: BEGIN THE DAY WITH MINDFUL BREATHING
Ask your child to sit comfortably with you in the mornings and do belly breathing together.
You can have them put their hands on their belly to feel the gentle rise and fall with each breath, as this will help them keep focused. You may even ask them to repeat the word “in” and “out” as they inhale and exhale, or you may say it for them.
Do this for four or more breath cycles (four inhales and exhales). When done, guide their attention to any thoughts that may be present. This can also bring a sense of calm to both you and your child.
Mindful breathing is the focus on breath and can be an ideal first experience of calm centered awareness. Properly guided breathing slows your heart rate and calms your mind, creating the opportunity to be more relaxed and focused by letting go of the continuous flow of thoughts.
AFTERNOON: TAKE A MINDFUL WALK
Mindfulness is not just sitting. Go for a short walk with your kids and ask them to be mindful while in motion. Have them start by focusing on their breath, then as your walking invite them to notice how the ground feels under their feet as they walk, what the movement of the body feels like. Walk with your child between trees slowly and bring focus to listening and watching for the slightest movements in the environment like the rustle of trees in the wind. Take time to notice something in nature that catches your eye or your child’s eye, like a rock or colored leaves. Try stopping maybe to study it closely and in silence.
EVENING TIME: DEVELOP POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS AND MINDFULLY SAY THEM
There are many online resources and books with positive messages, like Maggie Believed, which was a Mom’s Choice Gold Award winner in 2020 (www.annbiese.com). This can help you as a parent and your child, as you learn together and enjoy moments of peace before bedtime. To encourage kids’ cooperation at bedtime, repeat affirmations together, and make it a pleasant experience. Spend time afterward sharing the feelings you experienced during the practice, cuddling or using some lavender oil on your child’s feet.
Here are other tips you can use at home:
- Mindfulness sessions are best for children when kept relatively short. You may find some children are able to do longer sessions depending on age and temperament.
- Model mindfulness for your child. Point out times when you use mindfulness to control anxiety or emotions.
- When kids seem anxious, encourage them to stop what they’re doing for a minute and notice what they’re feeling and do some belly breathing.
Mindfulness help kids develop in the short term as well as build long-term strengths. Keeping it in your family’s daily routine and activities will help your child improve their technique as well as self-regulate their emotions and manage challenges in a more thoughtful way.
About Ann Biese
Ann Biese is an award-winning author of several children’s books which focus on mindfulness for children. Her most recent book Maggie Believed was a Mom’s Choice Award winner in 2020. Ann teaches yoga and mindfulness in schools across the country, and she is a Boston-based meditation therapist for children and families in pediatric hospital settings. She is on the board of Go Give Yoga which serves underprivileged children and their families around the world to better be able to cope with their challenges through yoga. You can connect more with Ann at her website at annbiese.com,