Mindfulness is mental exercising, the purpose of which is to focus on the present moment calmly without judgement. Practising mindfulness together with the child is soothing for both of you.
Mindfulness exercises help you to be aware of your body as a whole: your breathing, sensations, thoughts and emotions. Exercises are simple and aim at focusing on the chosen target such as breathing. The mind tends to be restless and impatient, but with practice it learns to calm down little by little.
As mindfulness skills improve, the child can learn to identify bodily sensations in different situations. If something makes the child nervous or frightened, they can learn to identify and accept these sensations and to delay their typical reactions to them (such as yelling, panicking or crying).
Benefits of mindfulness exercises for children and adults
Evidence of the benefits of mindfulness exercises for children has been obtained in several countries, including Finland. Mindfulness can improve:
- concentration skills
- self-regulation and the ability to cope with stressful situations
- social and interaction skills
- the ability to calm down and recover.
Mindfulness exercises support children’s self-awareness and can nurture more positive feelings, such as joy and happiness. Children can learn to recognise their strengths and find ways to deal with difficult things in life.
The easiest exercise you can do with your child is to focus on breathing. “Let’s breathe together” may be an important and soothing message to a child in an emotional state. It may also work in the evenings if the child is restless. You can hold the child on your lap and breathe together or make the child lie down with a breathing buddy as in the audio recording. Or if the child is older, you can just lie next to one another and breathe together.
Another easy exercise is to combine breathing with motivational phrases. You can teach the child to identity thoughts and understand that not all thoughts are real. You can use motivational phrases or words that can calm the mind when combined with breathing. The motivational phrase can be something like “I can do it”, “I can manage OK” or “I’m strong enough”. If something keeps bothering an older child, you can breathe together and repeat the phrase “I’m letting go of this thought”.
You can listen to the recording together in the evening. (in Finnish, soon in English)
You can also do a relaxation exercise suitable for small children. (in English)