DR ASHA PEMBERTON
Mindfulness is the art of placing focus and living fully in the present moment with attitudes of kindness and calm. In essence, it is about slowing down, breathing and taking notice of the here-and-now. Due to the continued exposure to death tolls, curfew orders and illness many of our children have spent days wrapped in anxious thoughts of the future or consumed with sadness or anger. The emotional health of children during the pandemic is a priority as many of them do not express themselves in conventional ways but are still struggling. Mindfulness is one technique that encourages them to take stock of each moment so that they develop clarity and peace. Although it may sound simplistic, practitioners become expert only after time of dedicated practice and consistency. Techniques can be taught to pre-teens and children effectively.
Mindfulness has many benefits for children and pre-teens, especially considering the significant changes to lifestyle, connectivity and school that they have experienced over the past year. For many children, this weekend represents freedom from a year of added anxiety and preparation. For most others, this is now the end of a challenging school year and beginning of a vacation period where it is to be seen what they can do to positively spend their time. Our children seem to be always logged on, tuned in and fired up. Mindfulness is an approach to help them detach from the whirlwind around them, so that they can more holistically develop the skills and abilities to navigate the roller coasters of life.
Mindful living for children
• Grounding technique. This activity can be made into a simple game yet effective mindfulness tool. Take your children into a space where they can experience nature. Sit quietly and ask them to identify five things they can see, four things they can feel, five things they can hear, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste. By channelling each of the five senses and placing focus on the world around, their attention is shifted to the present and away from many distracting thoughts or emotions.
• Paying close attention to each moment, and see the small wonders of life. There are wonders in every moment, just waiting to be recognised. Nature. The sky. Street lights at night. Smiles. The ocean. At every moment teach your children to be actively be more aware of the world around them and give them the opportunities to share what they see. During family meal time ask your children to recount something beautiful that they noticed during the day. As a consistent practice this check in encourages them to take the time daily to be attentive, so that they have something to share during family time.
• Focus on breathing. Each day, take time to sit with your children in silence and encourage them to focus on their breathing. This can be a short activity and simply involves specific focus on the rise and fall of the chest and feeling the air moving in and out with each breath. Breathing is central to meditation, prayer and mindfulness and has the ability to reset our minds.
• Recognise and celebrate positivity. It is extremely easy these days to pay attention to the violence, sadness and gloom of the world; but it is equally easy and perhaps more powerful to focus on the good things and positives around us. When acts of kindness are experienced, take time to reflect and focus on the good, and that little light helps to illuminate the darkness around. Create a home where there is a consistent attitude of gratitude.
• Disconnect. Whether for an hour a day, a day of the week, or part of the weekend, make the decision for the entire family to log off of social media and turn off all phones and devices. This must be a whole family effort if it is to be impactful on your children. The constant buzzes and beeps from notifications create chaos in the minds of young people. By taking a moment to detach, many pre-teens report feeling more comfortable and less on edge.
• Journal. Take a moment every day to encourage your children to write down thoughts, goals, dreams or experiences in a book. The act of writing literally takes away from the emotional burden carried, as the energy is transferred from your mind to the paper. Journalling is a powerful tool that many successful business people, athletes and leaders rely on. If teenagers start this very productive habit in their youth, they will set themselves up for success in decades to come.