18 September 2017
It’s important to support children’s emotional growth through providing a safe environment and promoting a hands-on connection with nature. With this in mind, here are five strategies to facilitate mindfulness with children.
1. Validate their emotions
How many times have we said, “You’re okay,” “Stop crying,” “It’s not that big of a deal…”? Well, it is a big deal to children. In fact, children are probably better than all of us at mindfulness –¬ they live almost completely in the present moment. They don’t have past regrets or some of the future worries grown-ups carry around. The frustration, anger, or fear they feel is very real. Let them know it’s okay to be angry or sad. What we can focus on is what we do with that emotion.
2. Help them understand what emotions feel like
If your child is angry, ask “How does your body feel when you are angry?” Teaching children to recognise how their emotions feel in their body will help them become more aware of them even if they can’t yet label them.
3. Teach them mindful breathing
Mindful breathing is not as difficult as it sounds, here are a few exercises you can try:
Noticing the breath: Encourage children to really notice their breath by putting their fingers under their noses to feel the warmth and moisture of the out-breath. Have them put their hands on their tummies to feel the rise and fall of their bellies as they breathe. Let them know when they are angry, it can be calming to focus on what our breathing actually feels like.
Five-finger starfish meditation: Make a starfish with one hand (with your fingers spread out wide). Using their pointer finger from their other hand, gently trace the outline of the starfish hand, slowly going up and down each finger. The focused concentration on the hand, combined with the soothing touch, often has an immediately calming effect.
Counting the breath: You can start with the basics – count the in-breath and out-breath. One breath in and out is ‘one’, then ‘two’, and so on, up to 10.
4. Lead them through a guided relaxation
Focus first on the breath, and then work through the various parts of the body to release tension. We can remind children they can do this type of relaxation when they need to, either lying down or while seated.
5. Practice what you preach
This advice probably applies to everything regarding children. When we react with anger based on our emotions, without a pause to encourage a more skillful response, children can see and imitate it. They need to see us practicing mindfulness as well. Do these exercises with your children, breathe with them, make starfish hands with them and lay down on the floor with them.
You can find out more about the new SCUH and YMCA childcare centre at www.ymcachildcare.org.au