Mindfulness Skills for Children & Teens
Do you find that you're constantly telling your child to pay attention, but they never do? Do you struggle to concentrate in school and constantly find your mind wandering? Are you and your parents concerned about how you deal with anxiety and life's responsibilities in a constructive manner?
Well, it's time to stop, take a breath and enjoy being mindful.
Cultivating mindfulness techniques doesn't require you to be a certain age and can be done in childhood, teenage years or any time after. For children and teens, mindfulness skills such as deep breathing and grounding techniques can bring a new sense of wellness as well as an improved ability to concentrate on and connect with the world around.
If you or your child feels a greater need to feel mindful and connected, the following guide will provide a brief but effective glimpse into mindfulness skills for children and teens.
Mindfulness skills for children ages 3-12
Age doesn't matter when it comes to mindfulness, and some of the greatest improvements in sensory perception, emotional regulation and self-esteem can arrive when practicing mindfulness techniques as a child. And all of this by learning how to breathe!
When beginning a mindfulness training program for children, it's important to take into consideration children's natural energy levels. Mindfulness skills should focus on short, concentrated sessions that allow children to feel grounded and connected but don't take away from the robust desire to explore and play.
1. Appreciation Game:
One mindfulness exercise that's great for children is the appreciation game. You can begin by asking your child if he or she has ever experienced any disappointment and what emotions that created. Then ask your child to name three good things that came from this moment or three good things that are present in your child's life. This exercise helps to cultivate a sense of awareness and appreciation for good things in life without being bogged down by negative emotions.
2. 8-minute Positive Practice Exercise:
Have your child lie down somewhere comfortable and begin to notice his or her breathing as the belly gently rises and falls with each breath. They will begin to count their breaths, but doing so while paying attention to the movement of their breathing. As they continue to breath, have them focus on things that went well that day, taking a few breaths to do so. Then, tell them to shift their attention to something that made them proud that day. If he or she can't think of anything, ask them to think of something that would have made them proud. After a few breaths of this portion, have them shift to thinking of something that makes them feel happy for a few breaths. This activity is a great exercise for developing a sense of calm as well as the ability to focus on positive emotions.
3. Simple Activities:
These include taking a mindful walk where your child leads the way as you notice and describe your surroundings, taking a three-breath hug where you hug your child and take three intentional, deep breaths to promote relaxation, or eating a mindful snack where you slowly eat your food and describe any sensations or arise while doing so. Fortunately, children are naturally mindful, so mindfulness exercises at this age are helpful guides for having children learn how to cope with the variety of emotions they may be experiencing, to find positivity amid these scenarios and to be present (since kids are great at being kids!).
Mindfulness skills for 13-19
Mindfulness exercises for teens are just as, if not more, important than for children as teens are learning to accept their new responsibilities in the world while juggling developing minds, bodies and emotions that can often leave one feeling out of sorts and off-center. Many of the exercises that are relevant for children are also relevant for teens.
1. Grounding Techniques:
Such as mindful breathing, mindful eating and mindful walking are great exercises for bringing one's self into the present moment and engaging any and all senses that arise during the process. Describing any sensations and emotions that come up helps to cultivate a sense of being present and aware of one's emotional responses.
2. Mindful Words:
Have your teen choose a word that is calming and have your teen repeat it in his or her mind, focusing on the sensation that this word generates. Have your teen do this for as long as possible, focusing on any emotions this arises. Mindful driving simply requires your teen to be aware of the process of driving. When entering the car, your teen can focus on the sensation of the seat and steering wheel. Before starting the car, have your teen focus and repeat to his or herself that they are going to drive and pay attention. While driving, have your teen focus on any situations that arise that cause any shifts in speed. The goal is to cultivate awareness while slowing down the environment being perceived.
This can be particularly helpful for dealing with the many stresses that arise during the teen years. Mindfulness should be stressed as a means of disconnecting from the stresses around, focusing on the task at hand and coming up with solutions to these problems.
These options can help with any and all of these elements of applying mindfulness to life include mindful cooking, construction projects, exercise, dancing, yoga, guided meditation or pet care. All of these activities help teens to disengage from what they perceive as stressful, recognize the source of their stress (and calm!) and to focus on what's important while finding ways to constructively embrace a mindful life.
There are many ways to be mindful that all circle around doing something that is calming, paying attention to what you are doing and embracing any and all emotions that arise in a non-judgmental. Whether you're a child, teen or a parent looking to keep your kids calm, embracing mindfulness techniques can help your kids achieve a level of tranquility during the crazy days of childhood.
Recommended Resources for Relaxing/Mindfulness:
I have personally used all of the following items and believe in them fully. They are amazing. Each one has its own method for helping. Some are visual some are audio. Pick items that work best for you and your kiddo.
First one below is Paws. Paws is a hand held plastic puppy that glows darker as you would take a breath in and lighter as you let out your breath. It also has a nightlight function. This is a great visual for younger kiddos and even some teens that like to see how long they should be breathing in and out to get the best therapeutic benefit. You can click on Paws picture below to be taken to Amazon to find out more information.
This one is AMAZING!! I use this one daily. Its called N.O.W. Tone Therapy System. If you are an audio person who loves singing bowls or sound machines this would be perfect for you. The sounds are clear and you can take these anywhere. They are 2 speakers with already prerecorded tones inside of them. You play them at the same time and they only take up about 3 minutes of your time to get what feels like a whole lot of meditation time. You can click on the picture below to be taken to Amazon to learn more.
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