Earlier that same day, there had been a news report which stated that 50% of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14 (www.mentalhealth.org.uk). Question answered I think.
Mindfulness is an effective way of helping anyone be more emotionally resilient. But it’s not all about sitting down with our eyes closed – in fact, children often respond in a far better way if this is not part of the plan, at least in the early days of their mindfulness experience.
Here are five very quick tips that you might like to remember in order for any mindfulness teaching of youngsters to be effective and enable them to become more emotionally resilient:
1. The most important! As with any teaching, it has to be FUN, otherwise what’s the point?! We all know that we learn best when we’re fully engaged, when we find something interesting, when it makes us smile. Mindfulness should not be a dry, dull subject – for anyone! Employing different ways of stimulating their interest, will enable children to make the most of their mindful experience. So utilise their own interests, sing the song, paint the picture, imagine the story and bring laughter into the equation too.
2. Remember that young children won’t necessarily have the vocabulary to describe how they might be feeling. Using words like ‘relaxed’, ‘stressed’, ‘calm’, and ‘tense’ are second nature to adults, but perhaps not so much for children. It’s therefore perhaps a good idea to have props available in order to help. I love the analogy of uncooked spaghetti for feeling tense, and cooked spaghetti for feeling relaxed.
3. To some degree or another, children are used to listening to stories, so make use of this skill by employing metaphors and imagination. It’s a proven way to tap into a deeper level of consciousness. A point can be made much more easily, and much memorably too, if it’s put across in the form of a short story. Children (and adults) will automatically make the story fit to the way they see the world, and it will therefore be much more effective. Visual metaphors are great – I often use a jar full of glittery water to explain how mindfulness works.
4. Whenever possible, bring into play all of the senses. Mindfulness is about bringing ourselves back to the present moment, time after time after time. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by focusing on our senses. Things like cooking, art and craft activities, or looking after a pet are all great ways of enabling us to experience life in the present moment.
5. And when you think the time is right, bring a focus to the child’s breathing, again remembering that suggestions we give might sound quite confusing to a young child. Here we can employ a myriad of techniques in order to help, for example, sitting their favourite teddy bear on their tummy when they’re lying down – if they’re breathing deeply teddy will rise into the air, but if they’re breathing from their chest teddy will stay put. Seaside windmills too are great for teaching the fact that they can have some degree of control over their own breathing in response to feeling anxious or upset.
If you’d like more information on using mindfulness with children then please get in touch.
As a tutor for Mindfulness Now, Rachel shares a range of different techniques for teaching mindfulness to children and teenagers. For more information please visit Mindfulness Now website
She also uses mindfulness strategies, along with hypnotherapy and coaching, with children and their families in a private clinical therapy setting. For more information, please get in touch:
07733 839 591 – Rachel’s mobile
0121 444 1110 - Central England Therapy Centre, Kings Heath