Children process a lot of information in one day. They deal with all kinds of stimuli and often change their attention from one stimulus to another. With so much information to take in, it can be overwhelming for your child.
Mindfulness is a good exercise to take the time to focus on yourself, be in the present, and acknowledge your feelings1. When you pay attention to your feelings for long enough, you can control how you feel by changing your thoughts and choosing to let go of the negative feelings.
It is good for both adults and children to practice mindfulness. Taking a break to focus on yourself and your thoughts will be beneficial to both you and your child.
Skills you can learn from mindfulness
Mindfulness teaches skills that your child can use at school and in their daily life. These skills will stay with them and only continue to get stronger as they grow. There are 7 characteristics of mindfulness that work together and complement each other — non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go.
These are the skills that your child can develop while practicing mindfulness:
1. Attention and concentration
Mindfulness teaches your child how to focus during the exercises, to pay attention and to notice when their attention wanders. They will practice accepting that it’s normal that their mind wanders, and bringing the attention back to the exercise. This will also teach your child patience and persistence.
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness regularly can change your brain structure and activity. It strengthens the frontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for attention2.
Your child can use this same technique at school — being aware that their attention wanders and bringing their attention back to what they were doing. This awareness means that they learn to work with more concentration and patience, thereby working more effectively.
2. Letting go, non-striving, and acceptance
Mindfulness exercises are done without striving for anything. In other words, it is not performance-related. It does not matter if the exercise goes well or if it fails. You notice it, don’t let yourself get carried away by your emotions, accept it, and try again — just keep practicing.
You always have choice — keep your attention on something or let it go by moving on to something else. Your child will learn how to deal with tension and stress. But this comes with practice. Mindfulness follows the 4 phases of learning process:
- Unconsciously incompetent — not knowing what mindfulness was
- Consciously incompetent — learn something about mindfulness
- Consciously competent — learn more about mindfulness
- Unconsciously competent — you’ve been practicing mindfulness for a while; it has become a habit
Certain factors can affect which phase you are in, with everyone’s circumstances being unique. Sometimes, you might find yourself moving forwards or backwards in the phases and that is normal.
3. Open attitude and non-judging
It is in our nature to judge and condemn others and ourselves. With mindfulness, it will teach your child to take on the role of an observer. Your child will learn to observe what their body feels and what thoughts and emotions they see passing by.
Mindfulness exercises will help your child be aware of their habit of judging. This can teach them to look at situations from different perspectives and with an open attitude, training them to become a more flexible person.
Mindfulness exercises will train you to listen to your body’s signals. If you listen to your feelings or your body’s signals, you will be able to feel your own limits and boundaries. Children tend to perceive themselves in detail. During mindfulness exercises, they can change their position or movement if they need to, or stop when they want to, without feeling critical about themselves.
If your child practices enough at listening to their body’s signals, they will learn to listen to themselves better. This will become a habit, outside of these exercises. Once they know their own boundaries, it becomes easier to identify the boundaries of others. This will help them in gaining social skills and will make communication with others easier.
5. Loving kindness and compassion
We will be more aware of our emotions, thoughts and what we are feeling in our bodies by practicing mindfulness. Your child will learn to accept themselves as they are now and to be kind to themselves if they make mistakes or feel dissatisfied.
If they learn to accept reality, they’ll be able to feel more compassion. If they have self-compassion, more empathy for others will develop. They’ll be more able to support someone else when that person is having problems.
There are mindfulness exercises that will teach your child how to focus on their own or others’ positive qualities. These exercises encourage positive self-image, good relationships, and will inspire them to succeed.
6. Creativity and problem-solving skills
Mindfulness will train your child’s imagination and facilitate their creativity. Imagination plays a big part in the exercises as children learn to visualise different scenarios.
Letting go is a crucial part of the creative process. Your child can practice letting go with mindfulness exercises and focusing their attention on something else. Taking a break will create space for new ideas and solutions.
7. Performance at school
The well-being of your child is an important aspect for performing well at school. Mindfulness will reduce anxiety and stress in both adults and children. There are aspects of learning that align with characteristics of mindfulness:
- Focusing and directing attention
- Improving concentration and thinking abilities
- Being open to new information
Your child will be able to further develop the above characteristics by practicing mindfulness.
Researchers at Griffith University conducted a study on 91 kindergarten to 2nd grade students to review the effectiveness of mindfulness practice in the classroom. The study found that students in the mindfulness classrooms were better able to pay attention, regulate their behaviour, shift between tasks, plan, organise, and monitor their responses. The teachers also noted that students who practiced mindfulness had greater concentration skills and more prosocial behaviour3.
By practicing mindfulness, it will have a positive influence on your child’s performance at school — socially, mentally, and academically.
Why should your child practice mindfulness?
With mindfulness, your child will grow into a well-rounded, kind individual. They will be able to concentrate better in school; they will develop compassion and empathetic abilities. Your child will be kinder to others and themselves and better understand expectations from and of others. Their self-confidence will increase and they will be less likely to judge others.
Want to know some mindfulness exercises that will help to train and develop mindfulness in you and your child? Keep an eye out on our blog — our mindfulness series will continue with more tips and tricks!
- Smegen, I. (2018). Mindful at School.
- How mindfulness can improve student learning and achievement. Smiling Mind. (Link)
- Bullock, B. G.. (2019). Mindfulness at School Improves Critical Learning Skills. (Link)