Children and Mindfulness—A gift for Life

mindfulness

Teaching and practicing mindfulness with your child can be an extraordinary experience for bonding and providing your child with a gift that will have long-lasting effects.

Mindfulness is the practice of “intentional attention”, to internal and external experiences without judgment.  It’s a journey inward, an opportunity to experience the fullness of the moment and a chance to slow down mental and physical processes. The goal is to focus on the immediacy of the moment to increase awareness of automatic thoughts, emotions and reactions in order to respond appropriately to any situation.  It enables people to make better choices and decrease emotional reactivity. Children who have difficulty with regulating their emotions and behaviors can practice mindfulness.

In her book, The mindfulness prescription for adult ADHD, Lidia Zylowska, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine, has done groundbreaking research on the use of mindfulness in the treatment of ADHD for adults.  More empirical research is needed to prove the efficacy of mindfulness with ADHD and children, but is clear from the small studies conducted, there are compelling reasons to practice mindfulness with your child who has ADHD/ADD.

Dr. Zylowska, conducted this study, which demonstrates positive effects of mindfulness for ADHD with adolescents and adults, although clearly identifying the need for more research.   Mindfulness Meditation Training in Adults

 

Teaching mindfulness to children can be done in a number of ways. It is important to take into consideration the age and stage of development of your child and be creative.  Here are a couple of suggestions; you can modify any of them based on your child.

·         Walking is an easy and fun way to be mindful.  Start by counting every fourth step and do this for a few minutes of walking. Next, take notice of what the surface under foot feels like–the hardness, the softness, the smoothness. During your mindful walk, encourage your child to walk slowly and to notice, the sky, the smells you encounter, how the wind feels when it hits parts of the body, the color of the grass and so forth.

·         Use a mindful bell—ring a bell and ask your child to listen to the sound until she can’t hear it any more.  This slows down mental and physical processes, increases concentration and attention. With daily practice, it will also induce the relaxation effect.

·         Take some time and relax with your child on the sofa.  Tell her that together you’re going on a vacation to nowhere; that together you will go to a place that is peaceful and only the two of you know about. If your child is into it, get her to go first, describing where this place is.  Encourage her to describe the sounds, the smells and other sensations that are particular to this place.  She might describe an island, with clear purple skies, red water and orange turtles.  The more descript, the more the positive effect.  Chime in with the descriptions if your child is struggling.     At the end of the trip, try to get your child to describe what she’s feeling in her body.  Try to get her to notice any sensations without any judgment.  For example, what do her arms, legs feel like? What does her breathing feel like?

·         The body scan—have your child recline in a relaxed position.  Guide him to focus on parts of his body.  Start with the head, asking him to just notice what his head feels like, then work down to his neck, shoulders, back, and so forth.

 Mindfulness is best taught through practice.  It is a wonderful way to connect with your child and to have your child to become more self-aware and the benefits are immeasurable.  Remember to focus on the practice and not being perfect.