Though children don’t have to worry about paying bills and job stress they do have to handle situations that create stress and worry for them. Everybody worries at times and children are no different but personality and temperament can mean that some children will worry a lot more than others. What children worry about is often related to ages and stages. Younger children might worry about things on the news, fitting in with other children or their school work. Older children and adolescents may also worry about these things as well as body image and peer pressure. Some simple daily mindfulness strategies can be a start to helping children manage some of that stress.
Mindfulness may help with relaxing and managing times when they are overwhelmed. Mindfulness helps children to tune into the uncomfortable body signals that stress creates and to focus their attention on what is happening now and manage the feelings that they have. Through Mindfulness activities children learn to practice in keeping their attention in the present moment so that information can be seen objectively, with interest and compassion, and without the automatic ‘judgements’ that our minds often place on events (e.g. heart beating fast = “I must be feeling anxious” = “I can’t stand anxiety” = avoid situation = next time in same situation = heart beating fast…and round it goes!).
The smiling mind app has a number of mindfulness activities designed for children and adolescents. Mindfulness activities can be as varied as your imagination- take the time to have ‘mindful moments’ with your child whenever possible. Some suggestions:
• One minute of mindful eating during dinner
• A mindful walk around the house
• A mindful moment while driving
• Mindfully brushing your teeth
• Mindful gardening/cooking/craft time with your child
• Mindful patting/grooming of a pet
• Mindfully throwing a ball/dancing/moving
Be aware that it’s not always easy to be “in the moment” and it may not work for everyone. It is also important to take the time to plan, think about things that have happened etc. It’s only when we get ‘stuck’ outside the moment for too long that we miss what’s going on around us. And remember, the younger the child, the shorter the time. Even a few seconds of really being ‘in the moment’ is a good start.