While it’s easy to think of the pressures our kids face as trivial compared to adult anxieties, their troubles are very real to them. Young children also struggle to regulate their emotions or remain focused in the present. Practicing mindfulness at home with your kids will help them develop these skills and gain peace despite their stressors.
Their low attention spans mean changing how you approach mindfulness with them. They need guidance and routine. At first, it may feel like a lot of work to get this practice going at home, but the result is well worth the effort. These strategies will help you take your first steps.
1. Be a Role Model
Any behavior you want to see in your kids has to start with you — mindfulness works the same way. Let your children know how you handle stressful situations. Be open and talk through your reaction and how you’re feeling.
Show them how you take deep breaths and count to 10. Ground yourself in your senses, noting aloud what you smell, taste, feel, hear and see. Over time, your kids will naturally pick up on your practices or ask how they can try them out.
2. Go for a Nature Walk
An easy way to work in mindfulness is to get outside. Take your kids on a walk in the woods or along the beach — anywhere they can watch wildlife in its natural state. Start a treasure hunt to find the most bugs or birds to keep them vigilant and observant. Find a spot to sit in silence and just listen. Connecting with nature is healing and calming — adding in a mindfulness component increases the potential benefits.
3. Work in Gratitude Practice
In my house, part of our kids’ tuck-in routine involves saying what we’re thankful for from the day. When we first introduced this, we asked everyone in our family to come up with only one thing. It took a while for our kids to get used to the idea. Now, they spout off long lists each night.
Starting an attitude of gratitude will serve your kids well as they grow. They’ll be thankful for what they have and less reliant on keeping up with trends and the newest gadgets.
4. Pick up a Creative Hobby
Art, in most forms, is a tactile activity requiring you to use your senses to create something new. Encouraging your kids to try creative hobbies will help them build mindfulness naturally. Why not find something you can pursue together?
Create portraits of each other or attend a pottery painting class. Activities like crocheting and knitting require mindless movements and repetition, leaving you both free to focus inward.
5. Recite Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are easy enough for kids to say every day. Pick a few short phrases to build them up where they struggle most. Make these meaningful sayings a part of your family’s daily routine. My daughter and I say them in front of the bathroom mirror each morning while I do her hair for school. She’s only 4, but I can feel her energy and confidence grow as she says them. Try some of these together in the mirror this week.
- I am strong!
- I love myself just the way I am. (Younger child: I love me!)
- I will be a good friend today.
- Today is going to be a great day!
- I am going to reach my ______ goal today.
- I am proud of who I am.
- I feel happy.
- Today I am going to make good choices. (Younger child: Today I am going to use my listening ears.)
- If I make a mistake, I will try try again.
- I am going to work hard at ______ today.
6. Get a Breathing Buddy
Holding still and taking deep breaths is challenging for kids, who are naturally prone to keep moving. Help them focus on breathing by giving them a buddy.
Place a teddy bear on their stomach and gently guide them to raise it up and down with their tummy. It will rise when they suck air in for a few counts, and letting it out will make it come down again. Kids will love this control and enjoy making their stuffed animals dance with their breath.
7. Get Moving
Kids love to move around. Get moving with and steer their energy toward mindful activities. Dancing and swimming are great ways to improve your mood, let loose and focus on your senses.
Encourage your children to think about how their body feels when they glide through the water or shake to the beat. What does their heart do when they work hard? Do they feel energized or tired when they stop? Get in the habit of asking questions like this each time to instill some mindfulness habits.
8. Do Yoga
The idea of slowing down and getting quiet for calming yoga may not initially interest young kids. However, they’ll be far more likely to participate if you start them young and if you join them. Your kids naturally want to mimic what you do — that’s how they learn. Take advantage of this by engaging in yoga and inviting them in. Let them make mistakes, avoiding overcorrection, so it stays fun. You can also do it before bed to calm down from the day.
Another option is to let them do yoga with an expert. Several channels on YouTube offer excellent classes for kids. Cosmic Kids is one such creator who has hundreds of themed videos that turn children into characters in a story acting out motions through yoga poses. Consistent practice can improve resilience and mental health as well as academic performance. Try these yoga poses to get started!
Build Mindfulness Naturally
Mindfulness requires intentionally centering yourself in the moment, and forcing it won’t do your child any good. Pushing this practice too hard on your kids will only turn them away. Instead, allow some natural mindfulness in your home. Watch as your child plays and notice how they’ll often get so absorbed with their toys that they lose sight of everything else. Let them spend uninterrupted time in this state.
Ease into mindfulness and use terminology they can understand. Start small and work your way up. Mindfulness should feel fun and relatively simple, or they’ll resist it altogether. After a while, it will become second nature and part of their daily lives.
Check out Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny’s online mindfulness class to learn more tools and tricks to do as a whole family. The class is taught by a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction instructor and Yoga instructor.
About The Author
Cora Gold is a mother and writer who aims to connect with other moms through her experiences with navigating motherhood. Cora is the Editor-in-Chief of Revivalist magazine and writes for sites including For Every Mom, MommyBites and Playground Professionals. When she’s not writing about style and beauty for her magazine, Revivalist, she loves to share her experience with family life. Follow Cora on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.