Self-help

A Guide to Practicing Mindfulness with Your Kids

Children today face significant stressors, with over 20% globally experiencing anxiety. This article explores mindfulness basics, principles, benefits for adolescents, and methods for integrating it into daily routines.

therapist sean abraham By Sean Abraham, LCSW

Updated on May 07, 2024

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Today, children face numerous stressors that affect their mental health and well-being. Recent data shows more than 20% of children worldwide struggle with anxiety. 

As a parent or caregiver, it may be hard to help your kid navigate these feelings and develop practical skills to manage their emotions.

Luckily, through mindfulness activities, you can help your child be aware of their thoughts and feelings and promote their mental health. This article explores mindfulness, its importance, and how to incorporate it into your child’s daily routine.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of quietly concentrating on your consciousness at the present moment over and over again. The practice involves centering on sensations to root yourself in your body in the here and now.

Mindfulness promotes awareness of what’s happening in every present moment. It also involves acknowledging your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judging them. When you practice mindfulness, your thoughts adjust to what’s currently happening rather than thinking of the past and the future.

Like adults, kids are easily distracted by past events or worried about something that might happen in the future. As a result, they may have challenges controlling their behaviors and managing their emotions. That’s where mindfulness comes in; it helps them appreciate their feelings, allowing them to think more clearly. 

While practicing mindfulness benefits your kid in creating awareness of the present, it also helps the parents. As you practice with your child, mindfulness allows you to relax, deal with stress, and enhance happiness.

In a nutshell, practicing mindfulness with your kids aims at the following:

What Are the Basic Principles of Mindfulness?

The following principles help to cultivate awareness of the present moment and calm the mind. In addition, utilizing them when teaching mindfulness to your children helps with achieving the desired results.

1. Non-Judgment

As you begin teaching mindfulness to your kids, they start paying attention to their mental habits and how distracted they are. Also, as they shift their mind, they’ll realize how often they judge their experiences in daily life. At times, they may develop thoughts unrelated to the task at hand; don’t judge them for not focusing. Instead, help them appreciate that their mind has wandered, and they’ll be able to focus in due time.

2. Patience

Mindfulness takes time. Therefore, you should recognize and accept that things will unfold at the right time. Also, allow some time for your child to master mindfulness and observe what happens in the present. Patience is also a vital tool if your child’s mind is wandering.

3. Creating a Beginner’s Mind

Help your child view things from a fresh perspective as if it’s their first time. Don’t let their past experiences and beliefs prevent them from seeing things in the present moment. Instead, create new opportunities for learning and exploring new things without any attached assumptions.

4. Trust

Trust in your kid’s feelings, beliefs, decisions, and capabilities. Be confident that things will eventually work out, and appreciate the support and guidance they receive from others.

5. Non-striving

This principle involves taking pauses from the urge to achieve specific goals. In other words, it’s about letting things be as they are while you remain as you are. So, allow your kids to be who they are and have what they have instead of continuously wanting more.

6. Acceptance

It involves acknowledging the current situation without a desire to change it. Allowing your child to accept the present moment without wishing to change helps create awareness of what they’re experiencing.

7. Letting Go

Your child might get stuck to a specific incident or experience during mindfulness. So, help them release any attachments to thoughts and overcome past events.

8. Presence

Mindfulness involves being present in the here and now. Helping you child to focus on things in their current environment can reduce thoughts related to the past or future, which tend to cause emotions such as anger, worry, and sadness.

Benefits of Mindfulness for Adolescents

The benefits of mindfulness go beyond childhood. According to the National Library of Medicine, adolescents who practice mindfulness have shown improvement in their mental health and emotional disorders. 

Here’s how mindfulness can help adolescents:

Boosts Self-Esteem

Self-esteem among teens is a vital tool that allows them to take on new opportunities, avoid health risks, and solve problems. 

However, low self-esteem can significantly hinder a successful life by causing young people to feel unmotivated or that they lack value.

Mindfulness can be an excellent option for teens struggling with low self-esteem. By focusing on the present moment without being judgmental, mindfulness can help improve levels of compassion, happiness, and overall well-being.

Increases Empathy and Optimism

Mindfulness helps in creating an optimistic mentality among adolescents, which helps to improve mental health and make life healthier and more successful. Empathy and optimism help to enhance awareness, attention, and memory.

Through mindfulness, teenagers also develop self-awareness, and they begin to understand the consequences of their actions. Additionally, mindfulness allows teens to acknowledge their feelings, preventing them from being overwhelmed by them.

Mindfulness-based practices also help adolescents feel more refreshed, excited, and happy. They can also assist with improving assertive communication skills, hopefully reducing passivity and aggression when interacting interpersonally.

Enhances Emotional Regulation Skills

Adolescents with low emotional regulation skills may struggle with their emotions, resulting in destructive behavior. 

Strong emotional regulation skills are essential in helping adolescents solve problems, make effective decisions, and attain their goals. 

Through mindfulness, teens can learn how to manage their emotions by calming them down. As a result, they can think more clearly while preventing emotional impulses. 

Improves School Behavior

Teaching mindfulness in schools helps prevent the adverse effects of stress among teens, improves their attentiveness, and curbs behavior problems. Mindfulness also helps adolescents to be more aware of their feelings and thoughts. As a result, they can easily communicate their issues of concern that could otherwise lead to unwanted behaviors.

Prevents Stress, Anxiety, and Depression 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 31% of U.S. adolescents aged 13-18 suffer from anxiety disorders.

Mindfulness helps adolescents concentrate on the present moment instead of thinking of past and future events. As a result, it prevents the worry and rumination that may lead to stress or anxiety. Additionally, mindfulness helps reduce the way people react to their thoughts, preventing the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression.

How to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Kid’s Daily Routine

While mindfulness is sometimes taught at schools, parents can also practice it at home with their kids. Incorporating mindfulness into your child’s daily routine will help them learn how to manage their feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Plus, it creates a space for bonding and open conversation.

Here are a few ways parents and caregivers can incorporate mindfulness into a child’s daily routines:

Practice Mindfulness During Meals

You can teach mindfulness to your child before, during, and after every meal. Before any meal, help your kid learn how to identify hunger cues. You can ask them how they feel when hungry, for instance, if they have headaches or a growling stomach.

During meals, encourage your child to identify the sensation of the food — how it looks, tastes, and smells. Encourage them to slow down and chew one bite of food for 20-30 whole seconds, describing their experience.

After the meal, ask them to describe the signals their body sends when they are full. 

As a result, they can develop a better connection to their senses.

Take Guided Meditation Walks

Meditation walks help improve your child’s physical well-being, such as blood flow and digestion, and calm their mind. The walk is an engaging activity that teaches them what to do when they want to tune into their mind and body.

While walking, invite them to focus on their feet and steps; ask them how they feel when walking and what they see in the surroundings. You can also ask them to describe how their entire body feels while walking.

Encourage Mindful Breathing

Breathing exercises are another fun and friendly way of calming your child’s mind. Encourage them to take slow, deep belly breaths and describe how their lungs and body feel as they breathe. 

Try mindful breathing when your kid wakes up, at bedtime, or when they are feeling anxious or angry. 

Some examples of breathing exercises are:

Box Breathing – inhale four seconds, hold four seconds, exhale four seconds, hold four seconds, repeat.

Cyclic Sighing – encouraging and drawing out the exhale, even audibly sighing if it helps. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for seven seconds, and make sighing noises.

Teach Positive Affirmations

Affirmations are a great way of promoting positive thinking in your child’s life. They not only make them feel good but also increase their self-esteem. 

You can teach positive affirmations to your kids by:

Mindful Meditation

Mindful meditation helps your child develop feelings of safety, empathy, and stability. Additionally, it can help improve your child’s sleeping patterns, enhancing their self-esteem and creating solid mental resilience. 

Here are some ideas options for teaching meditation to your kids:

Mindful Activities for Kids

Teaching mindfulness to kids allows them to focus on the task at hand, manage stress, and control their emotions. There are a couple of individual and group activities that parents and caregivers can use to teach mindfulness to children. 

Individual Activities

There are various individual activities that can help kids learn awareness and self-regulation skills. They include:

Mindful Observations

Mindful observations help kids to focus on what they can see around them. As a result, their concentration skills improve. To enhance observation, use objects and breathing buddies, and ask your child to describe what they see.

According to Dr. Christy Barongan, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and provider with Grow Therapy, simple activities can do the trick. 

“You can have the child take out an orange and examine the outside of it, noticing things like the shape of it, texture, inconsistencies in color, how heavy it is, and to describe what they notice,” says Barongan.

“Don’t stop there. Next, have the child throw the orange up in the air and catch it a few times, see if it bounces, throw it to someone else, and describe what they notice. Then have the child peel it and notice how the orange and peel looks and smells and describe it. Have them bite into it and notice how it tastes, the texture of it, if it’s juicy or dry, if it’s stringy. Have them take a bite out of the orange and chew it 20 times before swallowing it, describing the experience of eating it slowly. Process with them what thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations they felt during the exercise.”

This is just a single example. You can come up with other related activities each time to create varied learning experiences. 

Mindful Listening

Mindful listening allows your kids to pause and listen to their surroundings. So, put them in a comfortable, relaxed position with their eyes closed and let them listen to sounds around them. Also, encourage them to listen to the sounds of their breath, heartbeat, and muscles.

Bubble Blowing

Bubble blowing helps to clear your kid’s mind and helps them breathe deeply. Additionally, it allows your kids to interact with and anticipate others. As kids take deep breaths to blow bubbles, it helps calm their nervous system.

Showing Appreciation

Showing appreciation teaches your kids to be happy with what they have in life. It allows them to concentrate on the positive.

 Muscle Relaxation

With muscle practice, kids can understand when their bodies are relaxed or tense. It can also boost their concentration skills and relieve stress.

Group Activities

The following are fun group ways to teach mindfulness to kids:

Speak with Experts Today

Mindfulness is a great way to prevent stress and different types of anxiety among kids and teens. By incorporating these activities into their daily routines, parents and caregivers can help children understand their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

If you want additional support from a professional, browse our marketplace of therapists to find the one who”s right for you or your child.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
therapist sean abraham Sean Abraham, LCSW

Sean Abraham is a licensed clinical social worker who works with those who have struggled with substance use, depression, anxiety, loss, communication problems, student life, as well as other mental health concerns.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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