It’s my pleasure today to welcome a blogger friend, Menaka Bharathi to Everyday Gyaan and have her share Steps to Introduce A Mindfulness Practice To Children. Thank you, Menaka.
Is there a need to introduce mindfulness practice to children? This is one question parents ask me whenever there is a counselling session on mindfulness.
Times have changed, children have advanced, parenting has totally transformed!
This, though might look like a casual comment, is not exactly so. The media, changing food habits, social and cultural shifts and busy parents, eventually have brought about serious changes in children and their behavior.
Where children were once called naughty and playful, are now being called as hyperactive and/or suffering from ADHD.
Parenting has become demanding and challenging!
Introducing Mindfulness Practice in Children
In theory one could easily say – Embracing Mindfulness and practicing mindfulness can calm a busy mind. However when it comes to children, it is easier said than done!
You would find it difficult to make the calmest of the child to sit still for 10 minutes at a row. Children have thousands of memory cycles running through their minds every minute. Making them sit quietly for a while, does take quite a lot of effort and patience.
For parents my mantra is – “perseverance”!
Children can be made to sit still and parenting can become fun – but this takes systematic practice, endurance and consistency.
Advantages of practicing mindfulness for children
Katherine Weare, Emeritus Professor, Universities of Exeter and Southampton in her research on kids and adolescents, has confirmed that practicing mindfulness brings about changes in the meta cognitive forms of awareness.
Children practicing mindfulness have been seen to have a commendable overall behavioral change. Some advantages of practicing mindfulness for children include
- Improved awareness
- Non-judgmental perception
- Better understanding of situations
- Quicker decision making ability
- Stillness of mind and heart and so on
The advantages are so impressive that you would want to jump into the mindfulness wagon immediately. Well, again – IT IS NOT EASY.
They say “If you cannot explain a thing to a 6 year old you actually do not know about it” Mindfulness can be interchanged as ‘the thing’ here, in this context. You need an unfathomable understanding of mindfulness practice so that you would be able to answer the why, what, when and how of the practice.
I always recommend parents to follow simple steps that can be easily monitored. I conduct weekend classes in schools and have found that early mornings work best for young children.
You can begin mindfulness classes to child from 5 years onwards. However, do not impose; make the sit with you when you practice.
The steps given here are a combination of steps followed worldwide, which have been carefully siphoned down as an adoptable one to every age group, especially the younger children.
First things first
Before introducing mindfulness practice to your children I would advise parents to follow the steps, gain enough experience and then begin asking your children to follow. This is advantageous in more ways than one.
- You personally get the basic know-how of practicing mindfulness
- You induce the basic vibrations in your home for your child to practice.
- You can guide by showing your indulgence in the art.
7 Steps to Introduce Mindfulness Practice To Children
Here explained are seven steps to practicing mindfulness. Take them one by one, slowly. These instructions are for the parents (and children who can follow them) so that they can try themselves for a week or two and then teach their children.
#1 Choose a time
It is a common belief that when you practice something at a fixed time continuously for 45 days, you would practice it throughout your life.
Such a practice can be set in your body clock only when you practice it at a prefixed time. It is always better to practice mindfulness in the mornings; this is mainly because your mind is fresh and ready to do anything you want your mind to.
Set the alarm clock at least half an hour before you begin, you don’t want to rush yourself or start clumsily.
Complete your morning chores and then set yourself in the right place for the practice.
#2 Select a Place – Getting into your Mindful Self
I always suggest parents to make this simple, in fact I would favor sitting on your bed or on the carpet below. This makes the practice easier than to go to another room and then start.
You are here starting some positive vibes, so with your loved ones around, you may as well share some with them.
For those of you, who would want a separate room, well, that is not a bad idea though.
#3 The Bell Technique – Hear Bell Go Still
For children, I have found the bell technique to set the pace of mindfulness very helpful. It gives them an instant push to enter into mindfulness. You can use a physical bell or a bell sound on your phone.
- Sit comfortably, there is no need to restrict yourselves to any postures that is uncomfortable, however combining certain yoga poses such as Padmasan or the lotus pose would enhance concentration in children. Ask your child to sit in Padmasan only if he/she is comfortable otherwise sitting on the chair with the spine straight is fine too – comfort is the important point here.
- Close your eyes, this is just to make sure the wandering in your mind can be reduced by closing your eyes. Of course there will be a lot of thoughts rushing in, watch the thoughts, do not try to push those thoughts away. Be watchful of the thoughts that arise, it might be the day’s work, previous days occurring or anything that you have watched in television.
- For the initial days do not try to do anything with your thoughts, let it wander. After two to three days use the bell a few minutes after you close your eyes, all that is now needed is to breathe slowly.
The body needs to get ready for the next step – give three minutes for the breathing to get into a rhythm.
#4 The Nose –Heart – Nose Technique
Deep breathing is the basic mantra in mindfulness!
Reduce the speed of your breath and start following your breathe. It needs to go from your nostril into your lungs, take a few seconds for the gaseous exchange to happen there. You must mentally be feeling the air going through your nostrils.
Listen to your heart beat – you need to count five heart-beats – 1,2,3,4 and 5.
Now the air returns through your nostril.
This complete cycle of Nose – Heart – Nose is the only cycle you should be concentrating on. Every time you inhale, make it slower, longer and deeper.
Children find this technique easy to follow. In fact they can set into a rhythm faster with the Nose- Heart- Nose technique.
Practice this for 5 minutes (lesser for beginners – if required)
#5 Visualization – Seeing through the Minds’ Eye
Now begin instructing your mind (loudly for children) to visualize a beautiful flower or a lamp, a flame – a point that you can divert all your concentration to.
You can guide your child to visualize the flower, I want you to describe slowly in a calm voice the flower that he is seeing, a beautiful one, vibrant color (choose a color of your child’s choice) and its fragrance.
Give a detailed description of the fragrance. This is important to make your child concentrate deeper, the smell involves a meditative state and you will find best results when your child can really enter that phase.
Describe the flower for at least 10 days, stick to a single pattern every day, Do Not Change.
Practice this for three minutes.
#6 Bring Out The Smile
At the point when you (your child) are getting the fragrance, smile (ask him to smile).
You must feel the smell surrounding you – going around your, brushing past your body, your face. Smile slowly enjoying the fragrance. Feel positive energy in form of fragrance entering your body through every single breath you inhale. Feel the slight heat you are emanating just till a few inches around your body.
You have become positive, a very positive energy is encircling you, engulfing you – guiding you to start your day.
Smile – and feel the pleasure.
You should be in this state till you hear the bell. Ideally 2 to three minutes – the mind will start wandering for the first few times, with practice you can increase the time.
#7 Ring the Bell
The total process would be about 15 minutes. You can set a small vibrating alarm for the timings of different steps so that you can give instructions at the right moments.
After 2 minutes of feeling your aura around you and smiling – the bell needs to be rung.
Make it one simple –TING sound. Do not speak as soon as you ring the bell.
Wait for a few seconds, then – begin uncurling with rubbing your palms together and transferring the heat to your eyes. This gives the eyes the required light and heat difference to adapt to the light in the room.
That’s it – we have completed the practice – simple 7 steps to Introduce Mindfulness Practice To Children! Simple Right!
In my workshops I have found that children practicing mindfulness begin becoming responsible and better individuals within a week’s time. They start planning their day and also concentrate more on studies.
Parents have found it easy to connect with their children and guide them better, it takes only 15 minutes every day.
This is very easy, you just need practice and sooner you would find your child becoming a new individual you never actually imagined he could be!
If you have difficulties in guiding your child you could join my audio classes that I conduct online. I have a seven module class where I give you one module each week to practice. It can be used to set your child into mindfulness.
Menaka Bharathi a.k.a Simple Indian Mom is basically an Agricultural Microbiologist. She is an Organic Lifestyle Enthusiast and Organic Food Producer who markets it under her own brand –SIM Organics. Mother of two energetic boys she blogs at simpleindianmom and is a Parenting Consultant and conducts online and offline workshops on teaching mindfulness to children and mind-mapping for a better future for children.
Image of child learning about Mindfulness via Shutterstock