Fostering Resiliency in Your Child – Mindfulness for Kids

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Today’s bookstore shelves are filled with books expounding the benefits of mindfulness as an adult remedy for the stresses of modern life.  WebMD and the Mayo Clinic have web sites discuss the many benefits of applying mindfulness as a daily exercise, in fact the Internet is filled with an overwhelming amount of information about this.  UCLA even has a Mindful Awareness Research Center.

But what about kids? How can mindfulness help in the development of children as they grow up, whether in happy and healthy homes or especially when dealing with difficult home, school or neighborhood dynamics?

While adult mindfulness has been a well traversed research topic for decades, children have not been an area of tremendous focus traditionally.  However that is beginning to change.  For example, a recent Forbes.com article states, “One 2004 study found that children with ADHD who learned meditation with their parents twice weekly in a clinic setting, and kept practicing at home, had better concentration at school, among other benefits. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children (MBCT-C) has also been shown to help improve attention and behavior problems, and reduce anxiety in kids who started out with high anxiety levels. A study in 2013 showed that in boys with ADHD, an eight-week training in mindfulness, significantly reduced hyperactive behaviors and improved concentration.”

Research as well as school program studies are beginning to demonstrate that mindfulness provides an amazing potential for growing minds with the following potential benefits:

  • Cognitive focus and improved mental health
  • Self-awareness and self-regulation
  • Social & emotional development
  • Better attendance and grades
  • Reprieve from trauma

It may be no surprise that mindfulness and meditation practices which have been shown to be so beneficial for adults are doubly important for developing minds, and contribute significantly to a happier and more resilient children.  And research backs this up (http://www.yoga4classrooms.com/supporting-research.).

So the question becomes, how do we get our kids to practice mindfulness?  While some students are fortunate enough to be enrolled in schools that offer this in their curriculum, there is a wealth of tools available to parents, such as books, apps, websites, and exercise ideas to do at home.  Here are 7 simple ideas:

  1. Keep it simple – in order to keep the child engaged, it’s best to explain the concept in simple terms such as “noticing our thoughts, how our body feels, and anything that is happening right now”.
  2. Use sound – bells, chimes, a singing bowl, or even a phone app can be used to focus attention on what the child hears in the moment.
  3. Mindful bedtime – children can be encouraged to do a self-body scan, acknowledging all their body parts specifically and individually.
  4. Breathing buddies – kids may have difficulty paying attention to their own breath but how about a buddy, or a pet?
  5. Walking mindfully, eating mindfully – here are two examples where we as parents can be great models for behavior. After all, kids don’t do what they’re told, they do what they see.
  6. Gratitude attitude – being thankful has been a traditional foundation for many spiritual faiths for thousands of years.
  7. Inside check – here the child is encouraged to check in on their present emotional state with detachment, as an observer.

Based on direct evidence as well as anecdotal observations in research centers, clinics, schools, and homes, there’s no doubt mindfulness has tremendous benefits to offer for our children – not only those who are unfortunately suffering in their current situations, but also for perfectly normal kids as well.  Perhaps more importantly, this early investment in self-awareness builds an excellent foundation for maturity of spirit, as they grow and face all of the challenges of teen and adult life.

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