Did you know that 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14? With three children in every classroom experiencing a mental health problem, The Mental Health Foundation now wants emotional wellbeing to sit at the heart of school curriculum, and that’s something I’m 100% behind. With children facing a mental health epidemic, today I wanted to shine a light on mindfulness for children and how it can help them.
But I also wanted to focus in turn on how we as parents can support our children in looking after their mental health using mindfulness. To help us do that, let me introduce mindfulness coach Mihaela Berciu. Mihaela has over 10 years of experience helping people to practice mindfulness on a daily basis to improve their mental wellbeing. So let us begin!
What is it about mindfulness that is especially useful for children?
I believe that teaching our children to invest some of the energy they have into something so powerful that they can benefit from is simply amazing. The feeling of gratitude, awareness and joy that mindfulness brings into our children’s lives makes it a great tool. It also equips them with a sense of worthiness and self-confidence that will come very handy in the years to come.
How can mindfulness help children to stay calm in stressful times?
In stressful times, we need to show our children that panicking is not an option that yields positive results. We need to signpost that they will only get the wanted result by being in the present and acknowledging what’s happening around us.There are so many ways in which it can be practised, like mindful breathing, meditation, book colouring etc. See which one your child reacts better and make sure that’s the safe place he/she usually goes to whenever things get a little bit confusing. It helps to teach them about emotions and support them in exploring how each emotion feels for them. Being able to recognize emotions is a powerful tool to have.
Children today live in an overstimulated, distracted world. What part can mindfulness for children play in helping to offset that?
Indeed, there are so many distractions and it can be difficult to keep our children focused. Mindfulness brings peace of mind, and if they can master that in time, they will be able to prioritise. In turn, that will help them see what’s more important and how being peaceful and present can improve the outcome of a situation.
Can you give a few practical examples of mindfulness for children at work?
It’s absolutely obvious how a child’s ability to focus and concentrate increases once they start practising mindfulness. Take homework for instance. Some will panic when not knowing the answers, others might get frustrated, others might start putting themselves down. However, children who have been practising mindfulness will have that ability to master that situation and learn that these little obstacles are just part of their development.
Can you share five simple and fun mindfulness activities for children
- Book colouring
- Breathing exercises
- Yoga for children
- Guided meditations and walks in the park
- There are also lots of amazing awareness games that can help children become more aware of themselves, appreciative of their abilities, both physical and mental, and respectful of those around them.
What are your top five mindfulness tools for children?
I love mindfulness cards, colouring books, meditation and relaxation CDs, essential oils and bell ringing exercises. There are also lots of awareness exercises that can easily be played whilst taking them to or back from school.
One of my favourite games is the options game, a game that helps children make decisions and take responsibility for them. Start by giving them three options of outcomes when they would like to do something. Keep it simple: “if you do that, this, this and that can happen. Now that you know what could happen, whether you do it or not, it’s your decision. But you’re also responsible for the outcome, so cannot blame anyone if you’re not happy with the outcome.” This way, they will learn not to take anything for granted, they will experience self-compassion and will also build the confidence they will benefit so much from for the rest of their lives. I takes patience from your part, but is so worth it!
What advice do you have to give to parents wanting to teach mindfulness to their children? Where should we start?
I believe it’s very important to make your child curious about what mindfulness is first, rather than telling them they “have to practice it”. Set an example and practice it yourself, because you’re their main role model. You’ll see how they’ll want to do it too, naturally. It takes time, so don’t think it’s not for them if at first, they don’t seem to love it. It’s like an acquired taste, and it needs practice. Lots of it, until it becomes their natural way of being.
If there was only one thing you had to say about teaching mindfulness to children it would be….
That these children will be the adults our society needs: compassionate, kind, generous and generally good human beings.
So are you can see, mindfulness for children is a potentially powerful tool to have in our parenting kit. I already use breathing and guided meditations with my daughter when she is feeling overwhelmed, and looking forward to incorporating some other techniques shared above. Is mindfulness for children something you’ve tried before in your family? Or perhaps it’s something new that you’d like to try. Do leave a comment and share.
About Mihaela Berciu
Mihaela Berciu is a mindfulness and leadership coach with over 10 years of experience helping people to gain clarity to achieve success. She is founder of mindfulness subscription service, Spark Your Bloom, offering a daily dose of tips and advice on family, love, food, work and travel.