By: MK Craft
Mindfulness means to be fully present in the moment and to be immersed in the current experience. It can be challenging this time of year to stay present, with the year ending and a new one upon us. Teaching children mindfulness can improve their social awareness, behavioral development, self soothing skills and understand complex their emotions such as compassion, empathy and stress.
Whether you are teaching children or interacting with them, it's important to understand that they are like sponges and will absorb so much of what you teach them, and not always from the planned curriculum. As educators, parents or caregivers, it's important for us to model what we teach and stay present for ourselves and children. Taking accountability for our own awareness while working with children can teach them so much about the lived experience of mindfulness.
Here are 5 ways to teach mindfulness:
1) Big World Body Scan: Sitting or laying down, ask children to close down their eyes and imagine they can fly. You are flying above yourself, looking down on your map. Zoom out and you are flying above the building, zoom out and you can see the whole school or space, zoom out and you can see the whole city. All the trees, cars, firetrucks, parks, you can even see your house! Zoom out and you're looking down at the state, zoom out and look at the whole country. Zoom out and now you're standing on the moon looking at the earth. Carefully zoom back into each space. Tell children they are no longer flying and they are back in their bodies. Take a few moments to ground even further.
2) Self Hug: Yoga, eating good food and rest are all ways we can practice self care. Take a moment during your lesson to let your children thank their body for physically showing up today, for keeping them healthy and safe. You can guide them to give themselves a pat on the back or even wrap their arms around their shoulders for a hug. Explaining the importance of self love and self acceptance provides a sense of inner gratitude.
3) Regular Meditation Practice: Set aside 2-5 minutes during a class or in your morning for you and your child to sit in stillness. This can be challenging for children and refer to my last blog post for a few more guided meditation exercises.
4) Emotions are like Clouds: Talking with children about emotions can be so important to understanding the big feelings they have. I like to tell children that emotions can be like clouds, sometimes they pass through and we say hey that emotion cloud looks like happy or anger. We acknowledge the clouds and give them space, but we can't reach up and grab onto them or let a grey cloud ruin our day. Emotions are information that your brain is giving you about the present situation.
5) Grounding for Tantrums: When faced with a children having a tantrum or outburst, guide them through taking a few breaths, naming things they can see/feel/touch around them or guide them through an activity that would ground them like holding their stuffed animal or counting. Its so important to talk through why or how a child might be feeling, to bring their awareness to how their emotions are taking over their actions.