When you’re engrossed in an activity that completely captures your attention, you get much more out of the experience than you would if you were distracted by a work problem. It’s the same for your kids – if they bake cookies with you, they’ll appreciate the activity more fully if they become absorbed in the entire process, rather than fixating on the fact that they didn’t get to stir the batter first.
Practicing mindfulness can help you and your kids learn to be more present in the moment, instead of being preoccupied with thoughts or feelings that can take away from the experience.
You might think mindfulness means meditating or contorting into complicated yoga poses. Some people use those techniques to focus on the present moment, but you can be mindful in other ways.
To practice mindfulness, pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and actions as you experience them, accepting them at face value instead of judging them as right or wrong. Try to observe each thought as it happens and let it slip away so that you can observe the next thought. You can narrate out loud to help your kids understand how to be more mindful: “I’m rolling the cookie dough in my hands, and it feels cool and squishy.”
Focusing your attention on the present moment helps you become fully immersed in whatever you’re doing: Tasting a warm, gooey cookie. Watching snowflakes fall on the sidewalk. Feeling the loving embrace of a group hug (oh, how we all long for this feeling 😉).
How Kids Can Benefit From Mindfulness
When kids direct their attention to what they’re doing in the moment, they become more absorbed in the present, which helps them spend less time thinking about the past or the future. Once they learn to be more mindful, they may appreciate any activity more, from eating lunch to brushing their teeth.
Practicing mindfulness may help kids:
- Zone out less often.
- Spend less time thinking about past mistakes or worrying about the future.
- Lower their stress levels.
- Improve their mood and self-confidence.
- Reduce their risk of depression.
- Feel more optimistic and appreciate life more.
Ways That Your Child Can Adopt Mindfulness Techniques
Try different activities together, focusing on the sensations you feel in the moment:
- Eat mindfully. Sit at the table without distractions (like television), and notice everything about your food: How it looks, smells and tastes. How hot or cold it feels. The texture on your tongue.
- Take a walk. Notice your knees bending, arms swinging and feet hitting the ground. Or notice sights and sounds that you encounter, like colorful birds or the whoosh of passing cars.
Focus on breathing. Sit with your eyes closed and notice what it feels like to breathe in and out. Feel the cool air enter your nostrils, and notice your chest rise and fall. To make your breathing pattern more interesting, run in place for a minute first.
Practice being mindful and letting your attention rest on just this moment.