Mindfulness has become a bit of a ‘buzzword’ in the mental health community. But, it’s for a good reason. It is a technique that is used to help with everything from anxiety to overwhelming stress. It can be especially helpful when it comes to easing the anxiety of children who may have gone through some type of trauma or stressful situation.
One of the strategies of self-regulation that counselors use is promoting self-awareness. Mindfulness and self-regulation are closely related in that regard, as the practice allows your child to stop, breathe, and focus on the present moment rather than the past or future.
Teaching your child how to be more mindful in their everyday lives shows them that their mental health is important and should be taken care of. It is a valuable life lesson that they can take with them well into adulthood to better manage stress or anything the world might throw their way.
Why is Mindfulness Important?
Up to 80% of children in the foster system have mental health conditions of some kind. Even after getting adopted, children can still deal with mental health issues for years to come. In some cases, things like counseling or therapy are the best options. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can help your child with at home that will allow them to better manage some of their symptoms.
That’s why mindfulness is so important.
Because mindfulness focuses on the present, it can allow your child to let go of the things in the past that hurt them or that they might be scared of. There are both physical and mental benefits of practicing mindfulness. Some of the physical benefits include:
Reduced symptoms of stress
Reduced sleep issues
Reduced gastrointestinal problems
From a mental or emotional standpoint, mindfulness can help your child to practice more self-control, become more adaptable, and improve their mental clarity. It is a technique that can and should be used in moments that feel too overwhelming to handle.
Techniques You Can Teach Your Child
Simply put, mindfulness is about focusing on breathing and the present moment in the world around you. When you are practicing mindfulness, everything from the past and future goes away.
One way to express this to your child is to tell them to imagine their thoughts as clouds floating above them. The clouds can pass through freely (meaning, it’s okay to let those thoughts come in), but you cannot hang onto them. The thoughts eventually disappear. The result is typically a more relaxed state where worries of the past or future don’t feel so overwhelming.
Belly breathing is another great mindfulness technique. You can begin by having your child take a moment to notice their breath, its pace, what it feels like. Then, have them lay down and place one hand on their chest and one on their belly. As they inhale, they want to fill up their belly like a balloon and as they exhale they can allow the balloon to deflate. Since our breath often tends to stay up in our chest, this way of breathing may feel counterintuitive. However, it is shown to trigger a relaxation response in the body.
If your child has mastered this technique, you can encourage them to practice counting while they breathe: in through the nose for 4, hold for 4, and slowly let the air out of their belly and chest for 8.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 is another engaging mindfulness activity to practice. Take turns naming five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste.
Lastly, there are tons of free guided meditations you can access online! Taking some time out of the day to listen to one of these together is a great way to encourage regular mindfulness.
Creating the Best Environment
While the practice of mindfulness can be done anywhere, it’s a good idea to set your child up for success with the right environment. For example, studies have shown that being out in nature can improve mental health and reduce stress. Or, you can bring nature into your home by creating a special spot or room for relaxation. Adding plants to any room in your house can promote mental health by:
Decreasing stress and anxiety
Having a specific area where your child can close their eyes, focus on their breathing, and stay in tune with the present can make the practice of mindfulness easier for them. It only takes a few minutes a day to get into the mindfulness mindset, and it is a skill that will be helpful to them throughout their lives. So, share the importance of mindfulness with your child and guide them through the best techniques to make it a habit.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn