There is a growing trend to introduce mindfulness to children in schools and at home, and for good reason.  Many of the same personal and health benefits of mindfulness that have been shown in adults are now being observed in mindful kids.  And with heavier backpacks, competitive schools, tons of activities, and busy parents, our children can use as much help in finding balance as they can get.  Mindfulness and self-awareness practices offer a way for children to find that balance.

IN THEMSELVES

Through the simple act of paying attention to their breathing, children begin to better notice the inner workings of their own bodies.  By observing how changes in their breathing change the sensations in their bodies—and sometimes even their emotions—children may begin to recognize how what is happening with their bodies can in turn affect how they feel.  Moreover, meditation and other mindfulness practices provide a means for reflection and self-discovery, which can help children to recognize how what is going on both around them and to them can affect how they feel and act.  This appreciation of one’s self can ideally help children foster compassion for themselves, something that is necessary both for self-confidence and for weathering life’s ups and downs.

IN THE HOME

By learning to pay attention to what is happening inside themselves, children can then learn to self-regulate.  Through mindful games and activities, children can learn how to better control their bodies and their voices.  They also learn techniques to steady themselves when strong emotions arise.  And while it cannot be expected that mindful children won’t be subject to outbursts and arguments—they are children, after all—they may at least be more prepared to process their emotions after they have experienced them.  All of these skills can ultimately help pave the way for smoother interactions with parents and siblings at home.

IN SCHOOL

Mindfulness in education programs across the country are garnering reports from teachers about everything from improved classroom behavior to better attention and executive function.  The practice of mindfulness skills can impact children’s school function on both an individual and a communal level.  As they pay attention to what is happening inside and around them, children hone their individual ability to focus.  The shared experience of learning and practicing mindfulness together can foster a bond of community rooted in compassion and camaraderie.

IN THE WORLD 

Young children notice the smallest of details, paying attention to cracks in the sidewalk and reflection of light on the wall.  As we get older, even by the middle childhood years, we begin to pass these things by, overlooking the wealth of detail that surrounds us.  In practicing mindfulness, children can hold onto some of the wonder of early childhood, perhaps helping them to appreciate the beauty of themselves and what is around them, and to compassionately recognize the interconnectedness of all people and things in the world.