There’s possibly never been a time when stress has been so acute. Everyone is stressed! Children absorb the stress of the adults around them and, because of their age, usually don’t have the emotional language to express and work through any overwhelming emotions they may be feeling.
Mindfulness - or learning how to be in the present moment – teaches us how to see and accept things as they are, without emotion or judgment, to simply be in the moment consciously and with a sense of equanimity and calm. Mindfulness experiences encourage slowing down, paying attention to a single point/happening and noticing how we are responding. Practicing mindfulness results in less reactive behavior. When we are mindful, we respond to situations/experiences more intelligently, more rationally and with less emotion. This builds resilience.
Engaging your child in a mindful activity when they are showing signs of stress and anxiety, will help to distract them from their worries, regulate their emotions and create a deeper connection to self and to you.
Moving, mindful breathing and mindfulness activities will help your kids feel safe and grounded and bring them back to a state of calm as they release the feel-good chemical serotonin and override the stress releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Mindfulness - or learning how to be in the present moment – teaches us how to see and accept things as they are, without emotion or judgment, to simply be in the moment consciously and with a sense of equanimity and calm. Mindfulness experiences encourage slowing down, paying attention to a single point/happening and noticing how we are responding. Practicing mindfulness results in less reactive behaviour. When we are mindful, we respond to situations/experiences more intelligently, more rationally and with less emotion. This builds resilience.
When your child is showing signs of stress or anxiety, engage together in one of these fun and mindful activities and enjoy the calm and equanimity that they create.
Deep and mindful breaths have an immediate effect on our nervous system. Just a few minutes of deep breathing overrides the stress response. The Relaxation Response is triggered and we shift into the Para-Sympathetic arm of the nervous system - rest and digest.
Count Down to Calm
Sit together and breathe evenly and smoothly.
- Open the palm of one hand, fold down pinky finger and take one full breath.
- Keep pinky down and fold down index finger - take one full breath.
- Continue until all five fingers are folded into a fist.
- Place your fist against your heart and chant silently “I am Calm; I am Strong!”
- Repeat with the other hand.
The strengthening, lengthening, twisting, bending and stretching that yoga offers - coupled with smooth breaths - helps kids to feel great about themselves both inside and out. They feel more vibrant and become less reactive. Practising yoga also encourages kindness, both to oneself and to others.
One of the most common mindful techniques used to nurture self-awareness and help children to better understand their feelings, is through guided visualisations. We call them Imagination Vacations where kids are guided to an imaginary utopia where everything is peaceful and calm, and where they feel safe to connect to their inner wisdom and explore what may otherwise create distress or fear.
Dance and Sing together
Who doesn’t love music? It’s a great outlet for reducing stress and releasing tension. So is dancing. Move some furniture, put on music that you both love, and dance, sing and shake out the sillies together. If it’s a clean-up day, have fun to music while you get the mundane chores done. If your child is still very young, repetitive music that they’re familiar with will encourage singing and dancing and will boost their mood.
Traditional finger painting is a sensory experience. It gives your child the opportunity to get their hands dirty while exploring imagination through creative play.
You can also try story finger painting – another sensory experience, but this time through touch. Face your child’s back, and as you tell a short story, paint it with your fingers on their back. End by giving them a neck and shoulder rub. Then let them have a turn.
A Mindful Walk
Take a silent walk in a park, forest or at the beach. If you can be barefoot, all the better! Before you begin decide on what you’re going to pay attention to.
- Listen for different sounds.
- Notice different smells.
- Notice different colours or choose one colour e.g.: green and see how many shades of green you can find.
- Notice different types of leaves / flowers/trees.
- How many insects / birds you can find?
- Throughout the walk, pay attention to every step each foot takes.
Every child needs help to develop their emotions and create a happy presence. Teaching your child techniques they can use to ease anxiety, boost their temperament and create a happy mindset is the key to helping them develop mindfulness that will help them in years to come.
Beth Borowsky, is an Educator, Yoga Teacher, Mum and CEO of The Karma Class. The company trains teachers to bring yoga, breath and mindfulness into their classrooms to reduce stress and build resilience. In response to the Covid 19 crisis, they have created a free + member-based online suite of kids yoga and mindfulness activities for parents to share with their kids.