In an increasingly complex and challenging world, the practice of mindfulness provides a simple and easily learnt set of skills that clinical research suggests can improve the mental wellbeing and emotional resilience of children.
Regular mindfulness also supports the learning process, as it can enhance the ability to focus and concentrate, but perhaps even more importantly it actively encourages greater self-compassion and kindness to others.
Mindfulness is a skill – the skill of noticing in a kindly way our experience, just as it is, in this moment.
Mindfulness is also called heartfulness, as a strong sense of compassion and kindness to ourselves and those around us forms the core of any meditation exercise.
This skill allows us to spend more time living fully in the present moment, within the full richness of life available to us now.
This can be invaluable as both children and adults can spend time lost in the virtual world of past memories or ‘what if’ futures which can generate a lot of unconscious stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness encourages us to notice such patterns of thoughts and emotions and gives us the opportunity of choosing how best to look after ourselves.
In an uncertain post-Covid world, children face many daily challenges which can significantly impact their mental health. Indeed, year on year it seems that the levels of stress, anxiety and trauma in children increases.
Mindfulness introduces skills in noticing strong emotions as they arise and then teaching children to place their attention within the sensory environment of a neutral part of the body, such as the hands or face. This gives children the possibility of grounding themselves within an emotional storm just as effectively as a conductor can earth a bolt of destructive lightning.
In Mindfulness for Kits, for example, a simple technique we introduce is that of noticing when we are stuck in a ‘mind fog’ perhaps caused by a flood of thoughts or emotions. We may then choose to take our attention to the felt sensations in the feet. By focusing on the sensory environment of the toes, for example, attention is taken away from the hot emotional head and placed within the quiet presence of the feet which can help to create a pause and halt potentially reactive behaviour.
These simple tools also give children the possibility of noticing destructive habits and provides the option of choosing how best to respond carefully to a situation rather than simply react perhaps unconsciously and make a situation worse.
Mindfulness for Kits uses stories as a vehicle for introducing children to the practice of mindfulness. Story telling is a very powerful medium for teaching new skills and as the children listen, so they begin to learn very easily the tools and techniques of mindfulness. The stories are based on the adventures of some wayward squirrels who share many of the emotions children will be very familiar with such as anger, anxiety, and stress.
Children are also introduced to ‘brain-based’ learning, so they can understand more clearly why we tend to behave in ways that may seem contradictory and confusing, and how we can use that understanding to help our regulation.
Mindfulness for Kits also actively encourages the engagement of parents and guardians in supporting both their children and indeed themselves in learning the skills of mindfulness.
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