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Tips for teaching kids mindfulness

It’s never too early or too late to start

Tips for teaching kids mindfulness

In recent years, science has confirmed what meditators have known for centuries: mindfulness is good for you, both physically and mentally. It’s especially helpful in times of stress – like, say, a pandemic – but, as Maggie Seaver points out in Real Simple, it’s habit you’ll want to cultivate regardless of good times or bad, and one you can teach your children. In fact, the enforced isolation of Covid could actually be a perfect time to introduce your impressionable kids to helpful techniques that could serve them for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps you get apprehensive when you think of “meditation” or “mindfulness” alongside “my kid.” Seaver assures us “the techniques have nothing to do with forcing your 5-year-old twins to meditate in a dark room for two hours.” And there are no religious trappings, either. Mindfulness is as much an exercise as doing word puzzles for your mind or kettle balls for your muscles.

READ MORE: How to explain mindfulness to kids

Seaver brings Susan Kaiser Greenland on board to elaborate. Greenland is a mindfulness and meditation teacher, cofounder of the Inner Kids program and the author of several books, including Mindful Games and The Mindful Child. “At its root, mindfulness is about friendly awareness,” she says. “It’s paying attention with kindness and curiosity to yourself, other people, and the world around you. Awareness doesn't get rid of life's challenges, but it does change our relationship to them. That, in and of itself, is a huge deal.”

Among the games Seaver and Greenland advise is The Mind as a Sky Analogy. This is comparing the mind to the sky. Like the sky, awareness is with us all day, everyday, whether or not we notice it. But we have the ability to stop and observe it. Sometimes there are clouds (anger), sometimes storms (despair), and sometimes we can’t see the sky. But we know it is beyond everything else that’s in front if it.

Two others are Smelling a Flower and Blowing Out a Candle. This helps a child connect with their breathing. They inhale a pleasant smell – a flower, or anything nice – then hold up an index finger and pretend it’s a candle, and blow it out.

In teaching compassion, Greenland introduces Friendly Wishes. Children begin with themselves, wishing good things, then gradually expand to others, from friends, to neighbors, to folks they don’t know. Greenland strongly suggests teaching kids to extend well wishes even to people they dislike. “We have to work with kids on making a distinction between liking somebody and wishing them well,” she points out. “It’s just fine not to like somebody, but we can still wish them well.”

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