Practicing Mindfulness with Children

Featuring guest blogger Kaela Z.

For folks who aren’t familiar with mindfulness, it can seem very intimidating. The truth is, that many people, perhaps even you, unknowingly practice mindfulness already. Anyone can practice mindfulness. Being mindful is simply about being aware.

Do you close your eyes and breathe in the fresh smell of a hot cup of coffee or tea as you enjoy your first sip of the day?

Do you snuggle with your child as they fall asleep at night?

Do you ever notice the rainbow in the sky? The flower growing from the crack in the concrete? Or how the sunshine feels on your skin when you step outside?

Do you enjoy walks, or playing with your dog? Do you knit or practice yoga, or cook?

Being mindful is about staying connected to your body, your breath, and the present moment; about living in the now.

It’s about noticing things (feelings, sensations, thoughts) without judgment. Mindfulness is about allowing yourself to experience whatever it is that is happening to you or around you, at the present moment, without trying to outrun it, hide from it or rush through it. Mindfulness is leaning in. Mindfulness is about pausing, taking a deep breath, and making room. Making room for the love, struggle, emotions, fear—for all of it.

For those of us who use the ERS (Environment Rating Scale) and CLASS tools, we know that they often reference ‘validating a child’s feelings,’ or maintaining ‘regard for the child’s perspective.’ These are mindfulness practices. We want to acknowledge how children are feeling, despite what we think they ought to be feeling at any given moment. It can be common practice in classrooms to hear teachers say, “it’s okay, you’re okay,” when a parent leaves, or when a child falls down outside and scrapes their knee.

While it is likely true that children are okay, or are going to be okay—they may not feel okay in that moment. It is not for us to tell children how they should be feeling—it is our job to teach them what these emotions are, and how to understand and process what they’re feeling, while validating them along the way.

Have you ever been upset and had someone tell you everything will be okay when really, you weren’t looking for a solution? You just wanted someone to hear you and validate your feelings in that moment.

Research has already told us that in order for people to be able to function at their highest capacities, their basic needs must first be met. Feeling loved and accepted, is a basic human need. Having enough food, clothing, water, shelter—these are also basic needs.

It is unrealistic for us to expect a child to sit at circle time (a school readiness skill) if they have not slept all not, nor eaten. It is our job to teach children how to be resilient, by practicing some deep breaths to get enough oxygen to the brain to encourage continued growth. It is our job to meet children (and people in general) where they are at, without forcing them to grow faster, or beyond their capabilities.

I challenge you to identify one mindfulness practice that feels authentic and realistic to YOU. Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, I invite you to practice being mindful. Identify your emotion(s) without judgement. Take a deep breath (or three). Go for a walk, roll out your yoga mat, drink a cup of water, validate your own feelings.

We will only be successful in teaching kids the benefits of mindfulness if we lead by example. We know children are sponges who are absorbing everything that we do and say! Children will follow our lead—so let’s be positive role models for them.

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, I encourage you to check out the following:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-rudell-beach-/8-ways-to-teach-mindfulness-to-kids_b_5611721.html

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/mindfulness-for-children-kids-activities/
http://store.barefootbooks.com/mindful-kids.html

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