Encouraging Mindfulness In Children
I would describe mindfulness as "being in the present moment" the practice of focusing on what is happening right now and nothing more. It's a timeout from being in the past or future and an opportunity to take a break from over thinking, a time to quiet your mind and body.
So how is this helpful for children? Practicing mindfulness throughout the day can benefit children (and adults) by helping them focus, calm their thoughts, and become better at soothing themselves and managing stress.
I remember when my son was young and after a day of too many things to do he would become a little hyper and really cranky. Nothing I did or suggested seemed to have any impact on changing his mood. My solution back then was to remove all stimuli and let my son sit quietly in his room or in the yard for a short period of time and focus on just that. It didn't take long before he was calmer, more focused and transformed back to my adorable child.
I think we were practicing mindfulness and not even knowing it, so ahead of the times, not really, the practice of mindfulness has been around for centuries in many countries worldwide. In India children are taught how to meditate in elementary school. I would have liked to have more information back when I was raising my son about the value of teaching mindful behaviors to children. I think it would have benefited everyone's well being and especially mine.
This may sound good but where do you start? I think it's best to start with what is already familiar and can be added to what is currently part of your daily activities. There is a time for watching TV or using electronic devices, all of which can have great value as learning tools or just give moms a little time to them selves. The idea is to balance these kinds of activities with other more mindful activities.
Start with taking a walk where you consciously practice mindfulness. Only talk about what you're experiencing in that moment, not about any future plans or schedules. Ask questions about what your kids are seeing and hearing around them. Notice the different plants, flowers, and the sky and cloud formations. Take time to look for pretty rocks, see how many different birds you can spot along the way. Notice something you have not seen before. This will be a much different experience than just walking around the block and arriving back home again.
Another great opportunity to practice mindfulness is during meals. It's easy to fall into the habit of eating in the car, in front of the TV, or while doing some other activity. I found myself eating my lunch most days while working or during meetings and realized that I was barely aware of what I ate or how much I ate during these times. I certainly didn't get much enjoyment or satisfaction from the meal. This would be the definition of "mindless eating" and a major factor in overeating and weight gain for both children and adults.
It's not always practical or possible to sit down and mindfully eat every meal. This is especially true when you have young children who need to eat often. Snacks are required during road trips and some meals are not eaten at home. So be realistic and start by having at least one meal each day that is eaten without any other distraction. Focus on what you are eating and even how it's being presented. Serve this meal on real plates, sit together and enjoy every bite. This can be a meal you prepare yourself of something you pick up on the way home – all that matters is that you practice mindful eating and be present in the experience. You may be surprised at how good everything tastes.