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HOW TO BE MINDFUL: EXERCISE 4 – MINDFULNESS WITH CHILDREN

You’ve been reading mindfulness exercises since 3 days now. Hope you’ve tried some of the tips and techniques we suggested. If you have, you have surely felt some sense of peace while trying what we suggested. Today’s exercise is based on mindfulness with children. Can children be trained to be mindful? Would they understand the concept and put it to practice? Yes, they can. If we introduce the concept of mindfulness to children in their way, using elements of their world, they will pick it up, gradually. In fact you’d be surprised to know how mindful children can be!!

Can Children understand Mindfulness?

Ever noticed a child sitting at a bus window? What are you likely to see?

The child is gazing outside, keenly leaning out, his gaze fixed at the building opposite, or the groups of pigeons fluttering about, pecking at their seeds. Those of you travelling with children would have also noticed, they even ask you questions/pass comments about what is outside at the moment.

Now, notice an adult…(better still, notice yourself J)

The adult slides into the window seat, relieved….. cause now, he can catch some breeze. His eyes look out of the window, but the keenness is missing. He is preoccupied, thinking about something else. A good number of times, adults even do not actually look out of the window.

The next time you have a child and adult in a bus (sure this’ll be easy to find), notice it. Apart from making you smile, it also brings home some real good news – children are naturally mindful!

Not only can children understand and learn mindfulness, they are naturally mindful. We weren’t born with an automated tendency to live in the past or future. We learnt it over time. For children, this learning is yet to take place. You can alter what they learn. You can see to it that they learn that by savoring the here and now, one has nothing to lose.

The most effective way of encouraging mindfulness in children is to be mindful yourself. You cannot help a child be mindful unless you practice it yourself. If your child watches you being mindful and experiencing the present for what it is, he would naturally pick this vibe from you. Remember, mindfulness by nature is gentle. So, avoid pushing your children to be mindful. Allow it to develop naturally .

Being Mindful with Children : One Exercise for Today

For children between 3-5 years of age: ‘Together we look ‘–

Children this age are naturally and cutely curious. They are clued into several things happening around, to know more about the world they live in. Their involvement becomes your anchor in this simple exercise.

Stand with your child by the window. A lot of times you would find them gazing out of the window. Just go stand with them. Think in your mind that the next two minutes is ‘window time’, a time where you and your child look out of the window and notice what is around. Hold your child, if you wish to. Feel his skin against yours, sense its temperature, softness and innocence. Sense his presence around you. Feel his cheek against yours if you wish. You’re smiling now… 🙂

Look out of the window with your child. Take in whatever you see. Notice the air. How does it feel? Stuffy and humid? Moist and cool? Or just pleasant? Feel the small whiffs of breeze as they come by. Feel them caress your face. Ask your child if he can feel the breeze.

Encourage your child to point out to things that he is noticing, like the number of Tata Nano cars that have passed by, or how a neighbouring window has different curtains today. Ask him what he notices about the little plants that maybe growing in the building compound. As you talk to your child, remember not to unknowingly take the focus away from the present. For example, if the child notices a pigeon by the window, asking him what shade of grey are his wings is a good move because it makes him notice the pigeon better; asking him about all the other birds he remembers seeing in his textbook is not, cause it takes his focus away from the present.

Also, don’t evaluate and move on to how the compound hasn’t been properly cleaned or how the roads are congested. Bring yourself back. You’re only seeing and taking in now. This is mindful time. Your child is in a naturally mindful state as he looks out of the window. You too, join in and experience the view just like him. It’s a simple but beautiful way of spending some minutes with your child, where you both are wonderfully in the moment and having a good mental break.

For children between 6 and 9, or even older –’We draw, We notice’

Many children like drawing, sketching or coloring. You can join in! Especially if your child naturally takes to his crayons, this would be a good idea. You can sit by him and join in the experience of his drawing. Ask him how he feels as his pencil moves against the paper. Maybe you could take a paper and start drawing too. Notice how each stroke feels against the paper. Observe how Donald duck looks with just his face, then his hands, body and legs. Just be aware that you are watching your child draw and color. Notice how the page fills up with different hues. Watch your child, his expression, his look of complete focus. Hold his hand. Just be…be in the moment.

You’re free to choose what activity you want to do with your child, see which one he’d like better. The age brackets are of course, a rough distinction. You can still take your pick. Also, neither of these exercises has hard and fast rules. The examples mentioned above are meant to be a rough guideline. So, avoid pushing your child, for example, to tell you how many cars he is noticing. The idea is to just be in the moment with your child, naturally.

Take care until the next exercise! 🙂

Image Credit: Wiertz Sebastien

Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan

Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she worked with adolescents and young adults at Inner Space, from 2010 to 2015. 

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