character_mindfulness

CITIZENSHIP

mindfulness

what is it?

Mindfulness is the cultivation of attention and awareness, of breath, mind, heart and body. This 2500-year old practice teaches children how to ground themselves in the present moment. As children learn self-directed, calming techniques, it helps them become more attentive, balanced and aware. The point of mindfulness is not to alleviate the stressful situations or emotions a child is reacting to, but instead give them the tools to be able to overcome anger, fear, anxiety, and stress. It helps them notice the difference in how they feel when they focus mindfully on their thoughts and emotions, to recognize when their attention has wandered, and to provide tools for impulse control.

why do we need it?

Just like adults, children feel a range of emotions, both positive and negative, often quite intensely. Growing through the stages of childhood can be challenging for children—they experience separation anxiety, have to do things they don’t want to, or are subjected to changes that they don’t have the maturity to take into stride. As adults, we have usually acquired adequate coping strategies to help us with stress, but children need help coping. Mindfulness is a tool to make children more aware of their thoughts and feelings, and more thoughtful in their responses to challenges, which helps them learn how to cope, a valuable lifelong skill. Mindfulness is not only useful, it’s good for us. Research shows that mindfulness can help with emotional regulation and cognitive focus, helping children not only calm down when upset, but improving their ability to pay attention and make better decisions. Just like teaching our children the basics of healthy living by eating nutritiously, getting exercise, reading books, or any other habit we believe helps our children grow into happy, healthy adults, developing a skill that will help your child connect with their own thoughts and feelings is worth the effort. 

what are the goals?

The learning objectives for mindfulness are to: 

how do we teach it?

books we read

how to boost it at home

words we use

The best way to embed new skills in children and ensure lifelong learning is to practice the skills in a variety of situations. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness with a child, depending upon the child’s temperament and their stage of development. 

Blowing bubbles.

With toddlers, who have limited ability to control their emotions and think of consequences, distraction is one of the easiest ways to calm them down when overcome with emotion. Blowing bubbles is an effective way to practice mindfulness. As you blow the bubbles, wave and say something like “good-bye tears”or “fly away sadness,” giving them both a symbolic and concrete gesture that connects bubble-blowing with a sense of letting go of negative emotion. 

Make a calming jar.

A calming jar is a jar filled with water and glitter. To practice mindfulness, a child can simply sit in a quiet spot, shake the jar and watch as the floating glitter settles to the bottom. This gives the child a chance to calm themselves, but also the opportunity to spend some time with their own thoughts while enjoying the slow swirling spirals of the floating glitter. 

Be there for your neighbors.

Children love to emulate their parents, and since mindfulness is helpful to adults and children alike, engaging in it yourself is potentially the most important thing that you can do the help your child become more mindful and aware. If you’re new to mindfulness, you can start slowly with a meditation practice or sitting quietly for five to 10 minutes a day. You can practice right along with your child. It’s as simple taking just a few moments each day to close your eyes and notice your breath, your thoughts, your emotions, and your body sensations, and to gently let go of negative self-talk, thoughts, and emotions. Help your child to commit to mindful practices, even when they are not feeling stressed. For example, taking some time to hold your child’s hand and breathe with them each night before bed can be very helpful to a young child to get a relaxing, good night’s sleep. By practicing mindfulness when not stressed, you can build a habit that helps become an ingrained coping strategy when stress does strike. 

Help them to recognize their emotions.

You can help children become aware of their mood and emotions by asking where in their body they can feel those emotions. You can also liken emotions to the weather, asking children to describe feelings as their personal weather report—do they feel sunny, rainy, stormy, calm, windy, or a tsunami? Describing feelings as weather allows children to observe their present state without overly identifying with their emotions. They can’t change the weather outside, and we can’t change our emotions or feelings either, but we can change how we relate to them.

Breathe.

Breathing is vital to life, but how often do we stop and focus on our breath? This simple act can help a child break themselves away from the stressful situation, even for a moment. Introduce this technique when your child is calm. Show them how to breathe in deeply, hold it for a second and then slowly let it go. You can add imagery, such as the visualization of blowing a certain color out when letting go of the breath. For example, if your child is angry, they can blow out red; if they are feeling peaceful, they could blow out purple. Have them place a hand over their chest and stomach and feel their breath coming in and going out of their bodies. This awareness will eventually teach them how breathing can bring them calmness and awareness. 

Help them take a BrainBreak.

Have your child take a deep breath and calm themselves for a few minutes to be present, quiet their minds, and just focus. BrainBreaks can be taken at any time—when children (or parents) may be getting stressed. Take a BrainBreak together with your child to be calm and peaceful, focus on the positive, as well as remember the things that are important in life. 

Make your walks mindful.

Do a “listening” or “noticing” walk, asking your child what they hear or notice that they haven’t seen before. Children notice an incredible amount of detail every day. Help them realize it by stopping to experience it with them. 

Unplug from technology and spend time together.

It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of work and running a household, and technology can definitely make those responsibilities easier. But it can also make it more difficult to connect to each other. By purposefully setting aside your devices and spending quality time together as a family, you’re giving your child the message that family is important. 

my character
FIRST CIRCLE LEARNING CENTERS

character education | april

mycharacter

building character to last a lifetime!