As an educator, the most important thing we give your children is the gift of our full presence each day. As parents, you can do this too, with the deep intention and invitation to make space for mindfulness practice in your everyday lives. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in moment-to-moment experiences, as they arise, with kind attention, without the mind trying to make it different. Kristen Race’s book, Mindful Parenting takes to heart the deep truth that you can only give to your children what you have given first and fundamentally to yourself.
Practicing mindfulness calms the brain and reconnects us to our calm, clear prefrontal cortex, so that we can make thoughtful choices for how to respond. Mindfulness is wonderful for children. The research shows that mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset and to make better decisions.
How can you teach these important skills to children?
Keep it simple. Mindfulness is a big word for young children to understand. Teach them that when they are feeling upset or overwhelmed, to stop for a moment, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Encourage them to name the emotions they are feeling and why. The purpose of teaching mindfulness to children is to give them skills to develop awareness of their inner and outer experience to recognize their thoughts as “just thoughts,” and how to cope with these thoughts through positivity and calmness. When they learn to let go of unrealistic expectations, to love and accept themselves more and more, then they truly find wholeness.
An easy way to introduce mindfulness with your little one is to establish a gratitude practice. Ask them to make a wish or to think of something that they are thankful for. “We are thankful for our families, our health and being together each day.” The fundamental component of mindfulness teaches children to appreciate the abundance in their lives.
Above all, remember to keep it simple. You can provide children with many opportunities to add helpful practices into their lives. Being present in the moment is key to experiencing life to its fullest. The more we practice mindfulness with children and ourselves, the more we’ll experience calm moments, even if we weren’t trying to be mindful.