It seems that our children are under increasing amounts of pressure these days, and it’s impacting on them at a younger and younger age. Pressure to perform well at school or at sports, to be well behaved at all times and be able to regulate their emotions without our assistance. Perhaps sometimes, it’s our pressures being projected onto them?
As adults, we are well equipped with the maturity and skills to deal with the challenges of life, but children often lack the experience to do the same. We are all well aware of the benefits of mindfulness and these benefits can be be felt by children too.
It can be a difficult concept to explain to a young child though. My son is five and is only beginning to really appreciate when he is angry or sad, and what has happened to make him feel this way. I have found the following exercises to be particularly helpful, without him realising that he is being ‘mindful’ (and therefore not asking neverending questions about it!)
My son (and two year old daughter) love to dance to a catchy tune; he’s not going to be the new Carlos Acosta, but that’s fine. Dancing around with no inhibitions is a great stress reliever, and great for parents to join in too!
Ask your child to stand still as a statue that shows you how they are feeling today – small and scared or tall, proud and happy? Encourage them to talk about why they are standing in this way. You could also ask them to draw a picture of themselves and explain why they have drawn in a particular way – do they have a happy face or a grumpy face? What actions could they take to change how they appear in the picture?
Head outside and look for insects, butterflies and birds. Close your eyes and ask your child to describe them to you, to see if you can guess them correctly. Encourage them to talk about where the creatures live, what they eat and how they play. It doesn’t matter whether they are right or wrong, it’s a great exercise for them to expand their imaginations.
I found this the most difficult one to get my son going with, but the most beneficial once he had cracked it. I found the trick was not to tell him how to breathe deeply but to make it into a game – to imagine he was a pig and was making a snorting noise with his mouth open, this encouraged him to breathe in through his nose and out through his mouth! Another good breathing exercise is to blow bubbles in water through a straw.
I found that these exercises were also good for me too, as I had to stop and really engage with my son. Seeing him physically and emotionally relax is really heart warming, plus I know I am giving him some great tools for the future.