Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a mindfulness workshop led by children’s mindfulness expert Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of The Mindful Child. About 20 years ago, she began introducing mindfulness techniques into classrooms across Los Angeles. As the movement has grown momentum through the years, she has recorded and shared her ideas for helping children embrace present moment awareness and attention building activities through games and engaging experiences.
Mindfulness can be described as paying attention to what’s happening, right here and now, with kindness and curiosity. Through activities and games that encourage attention to our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, we can improve our focusing skills and appreciation for the moments of our lives. Through mindfulness, we also learn how to care for our bodies and minds, and calm ourselves when we are unsettled.
In the workshop, I was honored to sit in a room of therapists, school counselors, occupational and physical therapists, speech language pathologists, and social workers who shared the common goal of helping children build the resiliency and coping skills that lead to the healthy, full life that mindful awareness can bring.
In contemplating how to incorporate the learnings from the workshop into my personal and professional life, I have selected a few ideas that I’d like to share with you. I hope that it may be of guidance to you in your journey with your children.
When trying to incorporate mindful moments into the life of children, keep it simple and part of your normal routines. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed when I hear about a new idea that I think will help my children and start to plan all the many ways I could make changes to incorporate this new information. Inevitably, big sweeping plans lead to quickly extinguished hopes. In families, we have routines established. Incorporating a few mindful moments and games at dinner, bedtime, or in the car are ways to keep things fun and manageable.
Don’t overdo it. Keeping things brief is not in my natural inclinations. I tend to want to cover everything on a topic to make sure kids receive all I have to share. I am coming to realize that shorter is often sweeter and less is often more. Kids will get more out of activities that they can fully get absorbed in and process. Trying to fit in too much will be replaced with slower, more meaningful work.
Live it, model it. The best thing we can do to encourage the application of mindful behavior in children is to practice it ourselves. Kids can figure out the difference between talking and doing. Finding the time can often be an issue, however. Just as we incorporate brief mindful moments into the lives of our children, we can find time to do the same for ourselves. Slow down to feel the warmth of a mug in your hands. Really taste your favorite foods. And take a few minutes to practice calm, gentle breathing. When your children observe your practice and see its benefits, they are encouraged in their own practice.
Find more ideas for incorporating mindfulness into your family’s life in Susan Kaiser Greenland’s books, “The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate” and “Mindful Games: Sharing Mindfulness and Meditation with Children, Teens, and Families.”
Kim Kelly, M.S., Ed.S.
Certificated School Counselor
Mindfulness Educator at Spring River School
Playful Minds LLC, owner