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How to teach our kids mindfulness

The mindful child. It's not an oxymoron. In fact, many schools are teaching mindfulness as part of their curriculum and discipline strategy. Last week I attended a coffee chat for parents with the principal and staff at my son's preschool and the staff talked about how mindfulness is taught in the classroom. That evening I sat down with my son and he taught me all the different types of breaths he had learned at school to help him calm down. Our favorite is the balloon. He starts with his hands clasped together on top of his head. As he takes in sips of air, his clasped hands rise up and the balloon fills. One long exhale sends his hands back down to his head and he starts again. He was really excited to share this with me. He told me that he can even use his breaths to calm down when he is too excited, not just when he's angry or sad. So true!

I often teach mindfulness to my adult clients in my private practice, but I have to admit I was struggling to teach it to my son at home. But then I ran across the article 7 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids Mindfulness, by Kaia Roman on the Mind Body Green website (which I love!). Kaia describes 7 child friendly and fun ways to teach mindfulness.

Here are two of my favorite exercises from the article:

Breathing Buddies: Your child lays down and places a stuffed animal on their belly. Have them breathe in silence for a minute and notice how the animal moves up and down. Afterwards, ask if they noticed any other sensations. For older children, you can also tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away. 

The Squish & Relax Meditation (I do the adult version of this with clients in therapy all the time): Have your child lie down with their eyes closed, have them squish and squeeze every muscle in their body as tightly as they can. Tell them to squish their toes and feet, tighten the muscles in their legs all the way up to their hips, suck in their bellies, squeeze their hands into fists and raise their shoulders up to their heads. Have them hold themselves in their squished up positions for a few seconds, and then fully release and relax. This is a great, fun activity for "loosening up" the body and mind, and is a totally accessible way to get the kids to understand the art of "being present."

Check out the article to see all seven techniques. And if you want some ideas of different types of breaths your child can practice, take a look at 5 Easy Breathing Techniques To Calm Your Kid (And Relax The Whole Family), by Kaia Roman