Mindfulness for Children

I shared a post recently about the impact mindfulness has had on my life (here). Not only do I benefit from this practice, but my children do as well.  I began practicing mindfulness with them at a very young age.  Our oldest daughter has always had difficulty sleeping and at one point I began to think it was because she couldn’t calm down at the end of the day. Once she was able to communicate she used to tell us, “I just can’t shut my brain off,” confirming my suspicions. Her meditations started with breath work and have changed as she’s gotten older.  Now when she gets upset over something and can’t seem to control her emotions, she frequently asks me, “can you take deep breaths with me?” We focus on her breathing, she calms down and can start communicating whatever it is she is feeling so I can help her.

Where to begin…

I came across this NY times article last week-  “Mindfulness for Children” by David Gelles, which outlines some of the benefits of practicing meditation, including decreasing anxiety and promoting happiness.   Our world has gotten  quicker, more efficient and everyone wants to “do it all.” We want our groceries delivered so we have more time with our family.  We want time with our families which may include extensive travel because we are no longer living down the street from one another.  We want the prestigious jobs, but we also want several children to raise.  Wanting it all forces us to do more, and with only 24 hours in the day, it becomes increasingly impossible to do everything we want. Prioritizing is important, but feeling overwhelmed by our obligations makes prioritization tricky. We need strategies to overcome it or anxiety results.  Not like I’m talking from experience or anything.  I couldn’t be more sarcastic, my anxiety after my head injury has been a serious battle. I’ll talk more about my personal experience with anxiety, but for now, I want to focus on meditation and how that’s helped me combat it.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

This makes sense to me because of the lifestyles we have created.  One of my biggest fears for my children is that they will be wrapped up in a “do it all” and “should’ve been done yesterday” society.  I fear they will experience failure at an alarming rate as they grow older because they will keep having more and more responsibility and obligations. Learning and practicing mindfulness NOW will hopefully help them be able to cope, allowing them to focus on the present and increase their personal happiness.

How can we help our children? 

My mother returned from an in-service workshop in our school district this week and had a bunch of material about mindfulness in children. I am thrilled that this is what they are teaching the educators in our district. I freely admit how much of a skeptic I was at first, but the more our society accepts and views this as normal, the more of a successful environment we will hopefully have for our children. My hope is that if more children practice meditation and mindfulness it will result in lower anxiety and depression in children.  The rates of these illnesses seem to be rising as I read more and more articles about the young lives lost to bullying and depression.

For more information about mindfulness in children, check out these blogs:

Left Brain Buddha
Blissful Kids

And this article, Mindfulness for Kids and Parents.

Be well, friends.  Meditation will get you there.

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