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How To Practise Mindfulness With Your Child

Children's therapist and mindfulness teacher Louise Shanagher explains how teaching your children about mindfulness can help them to deal with their emotions, and the challenges that life may throw at them.

In my work as a children’s therapist and mindfulness instructor I give children a different type of education. This education is not about learning maths or geography, it is an education of the heart and mind and an education in peace and happiness.

When I ask parents what they most want for their child, the answer is usually happiness, but in what way do we teach children to be happy? We teach them about many things, but we spend very little time teaching them about their own mind and how they can feel peaceful and happy in their lives. 

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You Can Control How You React

When I began learning mindfulness meditation myself about eight years ago, I discovered a tool that transformed my life. I learnt that I did not have to believe in my thoughts, that I was more than my thoughts and feelings.

And although I could not always control what happened in the world around me I could control how I reacted to those event. In this realisation, I discovered that to a large extent happiness was not to be found in the external world but was much more about my own inner experience.

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What Are The Benefits Of Practising Mindfulness?

The benefits of mindfulness are not just anecdotal. In recent years, there has been an upsurge in research in this area and we now have a large body of research which supports the benefits of this practice. 

Mindfulness has shown to be effective in:
  • improving mental health
  • enhancing physical health
  • decreasing levels of depression and anxiety
  • skilfully responding to difficult emotions
  • promoting empathy, emotional resilience, self-compassion, and tolerance
  • enhancing focus and concentration

Anxiety And Children

Life is becoming increasingly more stressful for children and I have noticed a significant rise in children’s level of anxiety in recent years. With the increased pace of life and the prevalence of technology and social media in children’s lives it appears that now more than ever children need to learn techniques to deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life.

In my children’s mindfulness classes I teach them to find peace and calm in the here and now, that their thoughts and feelings are simply visitors passing through and how to love and accept themselves just as they are.

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Children Respond Well To Mindfulness

In my experience children's response to mindfulness is overwhelmingly positive. Although initially there might be a little resistance, children tend to really enjoy practicing mindfulness and are often more open and more accepting of the practice than adults.

Over a short time children learn to enjoy giving their mind a rest and often initiate the practice themselves at home with their parents. Anxiety levels reduce and children’s self-esteem and self-confidence are boosted. The practice is often very helpful for child who have ADHD, ASD or display behavioural difficulties.  

How To Practise Mindfulness With Your Kids

If you would like to incorporate mindfulness into your child’s life you can start off very simply by doing the following:
  • Ask them to put their hand on their belly and to notice their belly moving as they breathe in and out.
  • Ask them to do this for about five breaths at first and you can increase the number of breaths as your child practices.  
  • Explain to your child that when they feel their belly moving like this they are paying attention to the “here and now” or what is happening right now.
  • You can remind them that if their mind wanders to another thought they need to come back to feeling their belly move as they breathe, just noticing what it’s like to be breathing in this moment.
  • For younger children, try putting a small soft toy “breathing buddy” on their belly as they lie down and ask them to watch their breathing buddy move up and down as they breathe. 
Louise is the author of a new collection of books for children, the first of its kind in Ireland Mindfully Me (published by The Lilliput Press), a three part collection that strives to teach children between the ages of 4 and 12 the practical benefits of mindfulness in everyday life. If you would like some more ideas for practicing mindfulness with your child, Louise has together some guided meditations, work book pages and other resources, visit www.louiseshanagher.com.


 

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