- Azouline Schweitzer
The Benefits of Mindfulness in Children
Not knowing the answer to a question when you’re called on in front of the entire class. Forgetting your homework. The kid behind you pulling your hair. At Astor, we understand that school poses a lot of stressful moments, but how children (and teachers) react to them can make all the difference.
A new study by Harvard suggests that mindfulness education — lessons on techniques to calm the mind and body — can reduce the negative effects of stress and increase students’ ability to stay engaged, helping them stay on track academically and avoid behavior problems.
By teaching students meditation and mindfulness skills we help them increase their well-being and enable them to meet the stresses of the world with presence, self-compassion, and openness.
In order to help kids of all ages find their way into practicing mindfulness, it can be helpful to give them an easy definition they can relate to.
A Definition of Mindfulness Meditation for Children
Mindfulness meditation, at its simplest, is paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. It may be what you’re feeling, hearing, or anything else you notice. There’s no special place of calm you have to reach and it’s not about clearing your mind, it’s just an honest and kind look at what you’re experiencing at the moment.
At Astor, when we teach mindfulness to students we give them the tools they need to build confidence, cope with stress, and relate to uncomfortable or challenging moments. The earlier we do so in their young lives, the greater the opportunity to help them cultivate resilience and develop and refine their mindfulness practice as they mature.
Teaching mindfulness to students can also help shape three critical skills developed in early childhood: paying attention and remembering information, shifting back and forth between tasks, and behaving appropriately with others. These abilities are known as executive functions and they are essential for more advanced tasks like planning, reasoning, problem-solving, and positive social relationships.
Three Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids
Studies show that the benefits of mindfulness for kids may include:
Increased focus, attention, self-control, classroom participation, compassion.
Improved academic performance, ability to resolve conflict, overall well-being.
Decreased levels of stress, depression, anxiety, disruptive behavior.
Easy steps to do mindfulness at home
We can have a mindful posture anywhere including being able to focus on how to be mindful when we are sitting. Our mindful posture is how our body will look, feel, and sound.
During mindful breathing, we breathe normally. Mindful breathing is not about taking deep breaths or holding your breath. Keep your face soft and your body relaxed.
There are four steps to mindful breathing practice:
Find your mindful posture
Gently close your eyes
Place your hand on your anchor spot (belly or chest)
Mindful breathing practice
Five Finger Breathing
Try this simple five-finger breathing exercise you can do anywhere. Hold one hand in front of you, fingers spread. Now, slowly trace the outside of your hand with the index finger on your other hand, breathing in when you trace up a finger, and out when you trace down.
Encourage your child to eat without any distractions such as the television, iPad, or any devices. Invite them to pay attention to the colours on their plate, the taste in their mouths and take their time to savour their food. This is a good time for family bonding to get the whole family involved!
Useful websites for guided meditation: