Ways to Help Your Child BLOOM During the Pandemic: Mindfulness
By Brielle Leman, BLOOM Workshop Director
Within the last decade, mindfulness has grown significantly in popularity, though the practice has actually been around for thousands of years. Recently, there has been an outpouring of research surrounding the benefits of mindfulness in children. This has impacted the education system as we now see mindfulness being implemented into classrooms and curriculums more and more. Let’s look now at why this is the case!
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
There are many benefits that come from practicing mindfulness, for individuals of all ages. Looking specifically at children, mindfulness can help children and young learners cope with stress, anxiety, frustration, and sadness while promoting feelings of peace, gratitude, awareness, and compassion.
The results of much of the research that has been conducted shows that practicing mindfulness enhances executive function, which is the ability to effectively manage time, organize to-do tasks, make decisions, and set priorities. The New York Times presented results of a study that found that fourth and fifth graders who took a four-month meditation program demonstrated improvements in cognitive control, working memory and math test scores. They also report on other studies that have provided evidence that mindfulness can be especially helpful to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and also reduce children’s aggression, anxiety and stress. Additionally, research has shown that mindful children:
are better able to focus
have increased self-awareness
are empathetic and understanding of others emotions
experience a decrease in stress and anxiety
Mindfulness is important for helping each child gain the tools they will need to manage academic and workplace pressures later in life. It also promotes the development of social and emotional understanding within themselves and their peers, while also teaching children the power of being present in the current moment and self-reflection.
For my fellow science lovers, check out this further explanation of how mindfulness can actually alter brain function from The New York Times:
“Part of the reason why mindfulness is so effective for children can be explained by the way the brain develops. While our brains are constantly developing throughout our lives, connections in the prefrontal circuits are created at their fastest rate during childhood. Mindfulness, which promotes skills that are controlled in the prefrontal cortex, like focus and cognitive control, can therefore have a particular impact on the development of skills including self-regulation, judgment and patience during childhood.”
Tips for Successfully Teaching Mindfulness:
1. Practice is Key
Make sure you are regularly practicing mindfulness each day with your child, not just
whipping it out in times of stress! Mindfulness doesn’t only have to be seen as a solution to a
problem, it is also a tool that can promote exploration of new sensations and surroundings -
positive or negative.
2. Don’t Make Mindfulness a Punishment
Mindfulness is meant to be a positive way to bring peace during chaos or help children gain
self-awareness. It is not meant to be a punishment for expressing emotion incorrectly. For
example, if a child is frustrated and throws a chair, the response should not be, “go to the
mindful corner and think about what you did!” Mindful tools are helpful in finding a way to
calm down after this occurrence and reflect upon why it happened, but they should be
presented as useful tools both before and after an occurrence like this, rather than labelled as
a punishment for poor behaviour.
3. Quiet Space/Time
While not every classroom can accommodate a quiet space, there can certainly be a time
within the day where all activities are paused and the students are given 10 minutes to have quiet time to check in with themselves and focus on their breathing or mediation. Having
some light white noise or a guided meditation can help students avoid wandering thoughts.
Mindfulness Activities for Both the Home and the Classroom
1. Belly Breathing
This is a popular technique taught in many schools nowadays. Children are taught the power of deep breathing in helping them to feel calm when they are experiencing stress, frustration or anger. Younger children may benefit from having a way to visualize their breathing such as a pinwheel. Older children may find it sufficient to place a hand on their stomach or chest and feel it expand and contract. Additionally, prompting your child to reflect upon their breathing is a good way to ensure that they are focused on the breathing and not thinking about other things.
2. The Mindful Outdoors
When spending time outside, whether that be playing in the yard, going for a walk or visiting the park, the outdoors is a great place to practice mindfulness. Help your child focus on the present moment they are in. Here are some questions that can help prompt their exploration of sensations and surroundings:
What do you hear/smell/see?
Do you notice anything different from the last time we were here?
How does this place make you feel?
3. Gratitude Routine:
Gratitude is a powerful tool for boosting your mood! It promotes feelings of optimism and overall happiness. Having a daily gratitude routine can help your child reflect upon the things in their life that bring them joy and that they are grateful to have. Here are a few ways to practice gratitude with your child:
Gratitude Reflection: During dinner or before bed have your child share at least one thing they are grateful for. This encourages them to develop a perspective that while we may have some more challenging days, there are always good things in our life that we can give thanks for.
Gratitude Jar: This is a great resource for the classroom, but can also work at home! Have a jar available for everyone to contribute to throughout the week. Students can write out things they feel grateful for whenever it occurs and add it to the jar. At the end of each week, some time can be taken to read through the gratitude notes altogether.
4. Pass the Cup
This activity is recommended for two or more people.
Take a cup filled to the very top with water and pass it back and forth or around the circle, being careful not to spill a drop. This activity allows children to focus their attention and learn about teamwork!
5. Model Mindfulness
Kids can’t learn mindfulness unless it is demonstrated for them! From the time children are young (I’m talking toddler young), they can recognize and be influenced by mindfulness. Make sure you are choosing behaviours that will instill good habits of attention in your young ones by practicing them yourself. Dedicate time to activities that encourage focus, creativity and inquiry such as reading, arts and crafts, outdoor explorations, and science experiments.
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