The power of now: Mindfulness practices designed to help children and Adolescents reflect and reset
Treat others the way you want to be treated. Parents, educators and caregivers alike have long relied on this timeless mantra to teach children the importance of kindness and respect. What the Golden Rule fails to address, however, is the proper etiquette for self-care. This gap begs a number of pressing questions. Do I respect myself as much as I do others? Am I setting aside enough “me time”?
One answer may lie in mindfulness, an ancient practice that encourages us to be entirely present in the here and now and to be completely aware of how we feel. Performing daily check-ins is a vital practice for individual success and happiness. Mindfulness practices can range from five-minute breathing exercises to an hour of full-blown meditation. Regardless of your practice, consistency and intention are key.
Mindfulness has become an increasingly important practice for adolescents. Self-reflection is crucial to both their development as a person and to their exploration of peer-to-peer relationships. According to the Child Mind Institute, integrating mindfulness techniques into children’s daily lives can simultaneously reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and boost focus and self-control.
Practices vary from child to child and must be adapted as they age, so we’ve rounded up several easy-to-integrate mindfulness tactics for children elementary-aged to college-bound.
Children thrive on routine and structure. Make mindfulness a habit by starting or ending each day with roughly five to ten minutes of meaningful practice. Younger kiddos will likely look forward to the reprieve breathing exercises, focused drawings and other practices provide.
Teddy Bear Breathing
Belly breathing not only relaxes children but allows them to check in with their body by examining how it works and why. Offer your child their favorite stuffy to use as a breathing buddy, too. They’ll love watching their furry friend rise and fall with every breath.
1. Have your child lie down on their back with their arms resting by their sides. Place the Breathing Buddy on their stomach.
2. Ask them to inhale deeply until their belly looks like a beach ball.
3. Tell them to exhale and feel the release of pressure in their belly.
4. Repeat steps two and three for about five minutes.
Five Senses Fun
The possibilities are endless with this mindfulness routine. Encourage children to explore their curiosity and focus on how things taste, feel, smell, sound and look. Tuning into their five senses will not only pull children into the present moment but give them the opportunity to develop their likes and dislikes, too.
Take them on a playground picnic, for example, and ask them the following questions:
1. What sounds do you hear?
2. Can you identify any natural smells such as flowers, dirt or marsh?
3. Do you see anything familiar? Anything new?
4. How do the monkey bars feel beneath your hands?
5. Which flavors do you taste?
Parents of middle schoolers understand the roller coaster of emotions pre-teens experience. Offer them a succinct list of meditative practices that will help them navigate complex feelings and develop a strong sense of self.
Incorporate technology into meditation. Encourage your child to download mindfulness apps like Three Good Things: A Happiness
Journal, Headspace and Stop, Breathe & Think.
Make a happiness collage. Invite your child to dig through magazines, family albums and even social media to create a collage of their favorite things.
Create a self-portrait. This seemingly simple art project will reveal your child’s inner thoughts. Drawing a self-portrait will also give them the opportunity to reflect on how they feel, which characteristics they value most and how they portray themselves to the outside world.
Install an Affirmation Station. Hang a full-length mirror and surround it with colorful, positive self-talk posters. Children stand in front of the affirmation
station and repeat mantras like I am strong, I am intelligent or I will change the world by being kind to gain confidence and affirm that they are loved.
Children on the cusp of adulthood live life without a rearview mirror. They focus entirely on what lies ahead, be it the next party, the next internship or the next class assignment. Practicing mindfulness helps them embrace the “now,” which we as adults understand as a fleeting season of carefree fun.
• Incorporate mindfulness into dorm decor by outfitting teens’ rooms with positive mantras.
• Add a journal to their college packing list so they can spend time reflecting on the good of every day.
• Invest in a high-quality pair of headphones so your teen can listen to their favorite playlist or mindfulness podcast during their drive to school or walk across campus.