8 Ways to Help Children Grow a Mindfulness Practice

And a FREE Breathing Practice Coloring Handout for Kids

Andrea Dorn, MSW, LISW-CP

Mindfulness is an incredibly important life skill making its way into homes, schools, and therapy offices across the world—and for good reason! It is a crucial skill to learn in order to develop inner peace, joy, gratitude, and social-emotional skills, like self-regulation, decision-making, and impulse control.

But what is mindfulness?

A widely accepted definition of mindfulness is offered by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, which is the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

This definition simplifies and makes mindfulness more accessible to adults, but how do you introduce such an important, yet abstract, concept to young children? And how do you help them develop a foundational understanding of mindfulness and self-awareness from which to grow and develop over their lifetime?

Here are 8 tips adults can use to support children in developing mindfulness across their lives:

  1. Create your own mindfulness practice: There is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that learning happens subconsciously through the reinforcement we receive in our social environment. Many experts suggest that mindfulness is best taught when mindfulness teachers regularly practice it themselves. Attempt to make it a priority to cultivate your own mindfulness practice, as this will naturally support the creation of a “mindful” social environment in which your child can absorb this skill more readily.

  2. Let go of expectations: While pictures in magazines or on the internet of children sitting quietly in lotus pose are appealing, the reality of practicing mindfulness, especially with young children, involves going with the flow. Children are naturally wired to be mindful and to fully immerse themselves in their experience, but they sometimes need more creative exercises to engage their active minds and bodies. If sitting meditations aren’t working one moment, try mindful movement. (Walking or balance meditations are great for kids!) Attempt to meet your child wherever they are in the moment.

  3. Simplify: Especially with younger children, start small. This includes simplifying the overall definition of mindfulness, as well as the amount of time you practice and the exercises you choose. (This one is true for your child and for yourself!)

  4. Use mindfulness language: Create an environment where it becomes common to use language that supports a mindful headspace. Ideas for incorporating mindful language into your daily life include referencing any of the phrases used in your favorite children’s books about mindfulness, reinforcing the use of “feeling” statements or “I see, hear, smell, etc.” statements, or simply describing your own experience to your child in any given moment.

  5. Interpret: Cultivating mindfulness within children often requires an adult to help bring clarity to the moment. Phrases like “You are feeling frustrated because you wish you could stay up later” or “You’re feeling so mad that you hit your sister” can help bring awareness to internal and external experiences your child is having. Over time, your child will start to connect the dots on their own.

  6. Be curious: Children are naturally good at being curious, but adults have often lost this quality. Though it is easy to get caught up in routine, it can be helpful to gently remind ourselves that this very moment is unlike any other we have experienced in our lives. Being present and curious about whatever moment we are in allows us to fully enter the moment and to let go of being on autopilot.

  7. Practice makes “permanent”: Mindfulness is a lifelong practice. The more we practice, the more it becomes ingrained into who we are. Don’t strive for perfection, but work instead for consistency and acceptance.

  8. Model: Besides cultivating your own mindfulness practice, mindful parenting requires intentionally being in the moment without judgment. When difficult or stressful situations arise in parenting or elsewhere, practice being gentle with yourself and with your child. Model taking slow, deep breaths; taking a short break; and reminding yourself that this is a process that may take some time. Though it may not always seem like it, kids will benefit and learn from your ability to model how to calm your own body and regulate your emotions.

Ready to introduce your child to the concept of mindfulness? Have them try the coloring sheet below! Click here to download your free copy.
Rainbow Breath Coloring Sheet

For a concrete way to introduce children to mindfulness, a description of these tips, and more, check out Calm and Peaceful Mindful Me: A Mindfulness How-To Guide for Toddlers and Kids.

Happy practicing!
Help Your Child Have a Calm and Peaceful Body and Mind
Trauma_Worksheet
In this fun and delightfully charming book, your child will follow a gender-neutral character through an easy-to-understand, step-by-step mindfulness practice. Written and illustrated by a therapist (and mother), Andrea Dorn, MSW, this simple yet very intentionally written book introduces the concept of mindfulness with a first-person, mantra-like narrative that will help your child build greater awareness of their body and emotions.

Thoughtfully included for caregivers are:
  • Optional engagement questions to build connection and personalize the reading experience
  • Short child and caregiver meditations
  • Tips on how to help your child develop their mindfulness practice
  • Suggestions on how to best utilize this book!

Order your copy now: Get your copy today!
Meet the Expert:
Andrea Dorn, MSW, LISW-CP, is a mom, author, and clinical social worker who works as a psychotherapist with adults and children of all ages. The Mindful Steps series was created as a culmination of her interest and background in mindfulness, behavioral, and attachment theories. Andrea is dedicated to helping young minds and their families navigate the big and small changes that come with child development by encouraging mindfulness and emotional connection.

Learn more about their educational products, including upcoming live seminars, by clicking here.

Topic: Mindfulness

Tags: Body | Coloring | Mindfulness | Mindfulness Exercises | Self-Regulation

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