Mindfulness: Kids Can Practice Too!

“Kids can’t practice mindfulness! That’s for adults!”

The concept of kids practicing mindfulness might conjure up a laughable image of a group of children sitting calmly while breathing “ohm. ” This is NOT mindfulness. A common misconception is that mindfulness is only for adults to understand and practice. When we understand what mindfulness is, and what it is not, it becomes easier to understand how to incorporate mindfulness into a child’s routine.

Mindfulness is the practice of:
  • increasing attention to the present moment and
  • building awareness of internal (thoughts, feelings, sensations) and external (what is going on around us) experiences.

“Woah… how is my child going to do that?!”

Easier than you may think! My guess is that, to some extent, they already are practicing mindfulness … perhaps at home, school, or both. There are moments throughout a child’s day that serve as great opportunities to learn and practice mindfulness. Consider playing a game that requires concentration and focus. This encourages your child to be involved in the present moment and it teaches patience. Practicing mindfulness with a child does not mean expecting them to sit quietly and clear their minds (in fact this often does not work for adults either!). Rather, engaging a child in the present activity is creating a mindful moment. Helping your child to tune into their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the present moment is teaching mindfulness.

Perhaps your family takes walks, has a pet, or your child takes part in chores around the house. Believe it or not, these are all ways that you can begin to practice mindfulness together with your child. Taking a walk; petting a dog, cat, gerbil or feeding your fish or watching it swim; even helping to wash the dishes are all opportunities to create mindful moments.

For instance, while on a walk, promote discussion of what you and your child are seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling. This prompts your child to focus on the current moment. Take this a step further. Ask your child to be a weather reporter but to report on how they are feeling internally (e.g., sunny=happy; rainy=sad; cloudy/stormy=worried/scared, and so on). Prompting conversation and exploration of current experiences helps your child to develop their mindfulness and emotion regulation skills.

We know that children sometimes have difficulty regulating emotions. They are going to have temper tantrums, emotional shut downs, or flat out melt downs. Rationalizing with a child in the midst of a meltdown is not reasonable. However, by creating mindful moments during your child’s daily routine you are enhancing your child’s internal awareness, insight, and ability to recognize feelings more readily with the hopes that they may be better equipped to deal with big emotions in the future.

Additionally, incorporating mindful moments that teach relaxation strategies is a great way to prepare them for success. Teaching breathing and regulation strategies to kids is typically not as simple as “take a deep breath”. Mindful moments should be fun and explorative. Incorporate your child’s interests into these moments. For instance, using super hero poses as a way to tense and relax muscles teaches your child a self-soothing strategy in a fun way making it more likely that they will use it when they are upset. Blowing bubbles is another great strategy that teaches children the outcomes of different breaths physically and visually encouraging them to utilize deep breaths to calm down.

“So what if my kid isn’t interested?”

Don’t force it! Make mindful moments fun, interesting, and creative. Do not be afraid to be silly. Be a part of the moment and activity. Modeling your own commitment to practicing mindfulness is a great way for your child to observe the skill and encourages them to engage with you. Be a “senses detective” or use your Superman/Wonder Woman or Spidey senses to discover what can be found and observed through the senses. Play a game, dance, sing a song, or color with them but take the activity further through prompting observation, exploration, and discussion. These activities are all moments for you to enhance your child’s awareness of the present moment. These opportunities build positive experiences and emotions while improving your child’s ability to concentrate and engage in the present. Building these moments into your child’s daily routine makes it more likely that your child will begin practicing these skills on their own.

“Okay, so what can my child gain from mindfulness?”

Mindfulness can help improve concentration, regulate emotions, and enhance self-acceptance and confidence. Mindfulness also provides the opportunity to learn about our physical experiences and enhance the ability to self-soothe and relax. Lastly, practicing mindfulness promotes kindness, patience, and gratitude.

Facilitator: Ashley Mayo, MS LCMHC is a licensed clinical mental health counselor at Counseling Associates. Ashley creates an atmosphere in both her individual and group work that invites you to explore your thoughts and feelings, identify your strengths and enhance your insight in order to create meaningful change. Ashley recognizes the power of mindfulness to achieve these desired changes and is skilled in introducing mindfulness concepts in a down-to-earth manner to children, adolescents and adults. Ashley is welcoming new clients in our Upper Valley and Claremont locations.

Ashley is the facilitator of Mindful Kids, a group for children that introduces mindfulness concepts and skills in fun and friendly ways.

Share this

Relationship Health

May 21, 2018

Relationship Health: The birds are chirping and the bees are buzzing! Finally, the buds are on the trees, and the […]

Seeking Safety: An Integrated Group Model of Care for PTSD and Substance Use Disorders

January 14, 2018

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which came first, the trauma or the substance use? Many clinical programs […]

Mindfulness: Kids Can Practice Too!

January 9, 2018

“Kids can’t practice mindfulness! That’s for adults!” The concept of kids practicing mindfulness might conjure up a laughable image of […]

Hiding in the Golden Years: Depression in the Elderly

December 13, 2017

The “Golden Years” are often described as an idyllic time of retirement and fulfillment. Yet, the aging process is not […]

Navigating Holiday Stress: Ten Tips to Cultivate Moments of Peace & Joy

November 28, 2017

Wouldn’t it be great if it made no sense for the words holiday and stress to go together? You know […]