Updated: May 12, 2020
Meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg, notes in Faith, our personal view of things can be like 'Looking at the sky through a straw.' Our thoughts about ourselves may not appreciate the full reality of who we are.Psychology Today, "Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness"
Mindfulness trainers hear many different questions from parents, teachers, and students who attend our courses and workshops. Most want to know how they will benefit from mindfulness training, and parents and teachers especially want to learn how training for themselves will help their children and students to be self-aware and self-confident, succeed in school, and build positive relationships with peers and friends.
The following are the most frequent or common questions from people seeking the peaceful approach of mindfulness in living and working with kids and teens.
What is mindfulness?
A wonderful answer to this question can be found at our "About Mindfulness?" page. It reflects many years of practicing and teaching mindfulness and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to teachers, parents, teens, and kids.
Why practise being mindful with children?
The way we interact with our kids greatly affects the way they see themselves, and it has been proven to change their levels of personal resilience.
For example, scientist and mindfulness researcher Ellen Langer conducted studies (Langer, Cohen & Djikic, 2010) that found that children not only prefer to interact with mindful adults, but actually see themselves as less effective or less important after spending time with researchers in the role of "mindless" (inattentive, dismissive) adults.
These findings confirm our instinctive feelings that children are always learning what to think about themselves and how to see themselves in the world. Seeing this can be a great motivator to work on your own mindfulness practice as a first step to helping the children around you to thrive.
What are the specific benefits of practicing mindfulness with children?
Mindfulness training increases connectivity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is linked to improved skills of attention, memory processing, and decision making. This in turn helps children succeed at school tasks, which in turn increases their self-image and self-esteem.
Mindfulness training teaches children to "tune in" to internal and external experiences in the moment, without judgment but with curiosity, resulting in increased self-awareness and awareness of others. By teaching breathing and listening techniques, mindfulness training increases children's ability to recognize and self-regulate difficult emotions such as anger.
Mindful listening skills improve children's empathy, and mindfulness training fosters kindness in interactions, which helps kids to build positive relationships, which in turn increases their self-confidence. Research has shown that mindfulness training significantly reduces the severity of depression, anxiety, and ADHD in children.
Tips and a video: How you can reinforce your child’s mindfulness practice at home
There are so many opportunities throughout the day to practice mindfulness with children. Check the following list, then see if you can find ways to practice attention and non-judging presence during other activities, such as house-cleaning chores, shopping trips, or dog walking excursions!
Mindful play: Turn off distractions such as TV, and put your phone away (and on silent!) Now you are ready to give your children your full attention. Remember to gently come back to the present moment every time your mind wanders.
Mindful helpers: Take extra time preparing meals and get the kids involved in the kitchen. Help them notice the colours, smells, and tastes of the ingredients.
Mindful dinnertime: Spend the first few minutes of dinner in silence, just eating and enjoying the food. It's a surprisingly nice activity to do with the whole family, and done regularly, can become a lovely ritual.
Mindful bedtime: Encourage them to pay attention to sensations, sights, sounds, and smells at each step of the bedtime routine – face washing, tooth brushing, or just settling into bed. Ask them to think of two or three things they noticed that were different tonight than the previous night.
For more ideas and findings on how mindfulness affects children, see the following TED presentation, "Teaching mindfulness to children: The ABCs of mindfulness".
Contact us about mindfulness training for kids and teens
My mindfulness classes for kids will give your children the skills they need to grow, flourish and develop a positive self-image. I provide mindfulness training in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of BC. Contact me today!