Have you ever felt like you’re operating on “autopilot” to get through your day? You may forget things easily, find your mind wandering, or find it hard to focus on the simplest of tasks–chances are, your child has felt this way too. It is completely normal, given the society we live in today, to feel this way. In children, this way of existing can come with some unique struggles. It may look like your child being quick to react and engaging in impulsive behaviors at home or at school.
One method that can help combat this “autopilot” existence is simple and easy to practice (both for your child and for yourself)–it is called mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a concept that originated as a Buddhist tradition and is often learned and practiced through meditation. However, unlike meditation, mindfulness is concerned with bringing one’s full attention to the present moment and being actively aware of what is occurring both internally and externally in one’s environment. It is a skill that has become increasingly popular in therapy because of its versatility and the number of positive outcomes associated with it. It has a multitude of benefits including:
-Increased recall and improved memory
-Increased self-control and self-management
-Better coping methods to aid with stress, anxiety, and depression
-Greater sense of self-understanding
Truly, the benefits to mindfulness seem endless–and, luckily, it is something that can be learned through practice! While there are multiple ways to practice mindfulness with your child, it is important to find one that works for them. Sometimes, depending on the child, it is easier to practice mindfulness as it relates to a child’s environment before practicing mindfulness as it relates to your child’s internal being. Some mindfulness-based exercises and techniques are listed below:
Awareness of Environment: Take a walk with your child and ask them along the way to stop and describe 3 things in detail. What are they looking at? What color is it? Does it have a smell? If safe, what does it feel like? Is it soft? Hard? By helping your child to stop and pay attention, in detail, to things that exist in their environment you are helping them increase their awareness and enhance their mindfulness skills.
Awareness of Self in Environment: Have child stand on one side of the room and tell them to make their way, slowly, toward you as they describe what it is their body is doing (i.e., I’m picking up my foot. I am moving my foot forward. I am putting my foot down.) You can get creative with this one–try inviting your child to walk some, crawl some, etc. Just remember slowness here is key! By having your child slowly move and describe how they are moving within their environment, you are again helping them practice the skills necessary for mindfulness!
Awareness of Body: Just as the other two categories of exercises listed above, there are multiple ways for one to practice mindfulness as it relates to their body. One fun activity you and your child can do to practice this is a common mindfulness technique called “breath counting”. You can model this for your child as well. Begin by drawing in a breath and counting to “1” then exhaling while counting to “1”. Then, repeat this process, but this time breath in and count to “2” before exhaling and counting to “2”. You can do this all the way up to “5”, where you and your child are breathing in (deeply) while counting to “5” and then exhaling while counting to “5”.
There are multiple mindfulness activities to help your child learn how to pay attention to their body. More techniques can be found here: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/mindfulness-for-children-kids-activities/
As mindfulness-based skills increase, your child will become more aware of what it is their body is telling them and learn to accept feelings and thought without judging them or acting on them impulsively.
If you would like to learn more about what mindfulness is and how it can be beneficial to both you and your child, please feel free to contact Sunshine Child and Family Counseling and ask for Paige–I would be happy to speak with you!
Hooker, K. E., & Fodor, I. E. (2008). Teaching mindfulness to children. Gestalt review, 12(1), 75-91.