Planting seeds: mindfulness for kids

Mindfulness lessons may among the most important you teach

The five-minute video above shows how mindfulness works. Interesting to listen to young folks’ comment on how mindfulness impacts their lives. The film is an adaptation of the book 
Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children.

It’s a strange irony: infants and toddlers are naturally mindful, completely present in their bodies, not consumed with worry or regret beyond what is immediately in front of them (or in their mouths). 

Starting around preschool time, however, when they become talkers, and their understanding of the future and the past comes online, they get more “out of their bodies.” They fret and ruminate. Or they misinterpret signals from the bodies. 

It becomes our job to get them back into those bodies, into the present moment, the dining room table, the classroom, their bed. In other words, we must teach – or rather, help them re-learn – to be mindful.

Similarly, I recall a yoga teacher friend pointing out an infant’s perfect posture. She informed me the vast majority of us are born with perfect posture, perfect alignment. But we learn to slouch and ultimately injure ourselves through bad habits. (Like sitting too long at a computer, as I am right now.)

This task of teaching mindfulness – which hasn’t always been called “teaching mindfulness” – has always been challenging, in large part because parents are themselves so often not mindful (guilty as charged), and it’s hard to get a child there if a caregiver is not yet there as well. Of course, Covid-19 has made it all even more challenging, and yet it’s more imperative than ever.

Thankfully, in a Psychology Today post, psychotherapist and award-winning author Shonda Moralis gives some helpful hints on how to introduce little ones back into mindfulness. Parents unfamiliar with mindfulness would do well to follow along, too.

Among her tips: Notice and name body sensations, thoughts, and emotions: “My chest feels warm, and I feel so happy when we are playing outside together like this.” “It sounds like you might be nervous about this new situation. What do you notice in your body right now?”

READ MORE: Mindfulness for the whole family

According to Moralis, “The more insight our kids have into their inner experience, the more they are able to choose appropriate responses.”

One of the things I miss most about having a small child around is the almost constant hugging and snuggling. (Trust me, get it while you can.) So one of my personal favorites of Moralis’s tips is: Share a 3-breath hug. 

“Hugging your child, take three deliberate, synchronized, deep breaths together. Drop your shoulders, relaxing any muscles that feel tight. Let go and feel the tension melt away. Use it as you say goodbye in the morning, when you recognize when someone could use a calming hug, or just for the love of it.”

Another keeper: Let them be. As aforementioned: “Kids are instinctively more mindful (which is why it can take them so bleeping long to get from point A to point B),” says Moralis. “Whenever possible, allow them to explore at their own pace. Create space in your schedule for free time to investigate and be mindful naturally.”

The job of helping your child, not to mention your spouse, friend, parent, and others around you, get back to a mindful state, is ongoing. But the most important recipient of that particular love is your offspring, who are still learning how to operate those miraculous, and still malleable minds.

Other articles by HVP on Being Mindful