Mental health is an important aspect of an adult’s overall well-being, but what about with children? Tammy Washington, healthy living coordinator at The Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana, says that mindfulness helps children learn to self-regulate better.
On what mindfulness is
Mindfulness is a tool that assists children with self-regulation. Mindfulness will provide strategies for training their attention and helping them to focus on the present moment purposefully.
For example, if you take a mason jar that’s filled with water and you add glitter and some small tokens, the glitter and tokens will represent the thoughts and feelings. If you shake it up vigorously, you’ll see the glitter and tokens chaotically float throughout the water.
Understand that this is what it’s like for children – and even adults – when their thoughts and feelings are spinning out of control. So, a child may act out and become irritated or frustrated or unfocused. If you don’t teach them how to regulate their feelings, just telling them, “Do what I say do!” will continue a cycle that only works temporarily.
Mindfulness takes places as the glitter slowly starts to settle to the bottom. For the child, this takes place when you get them to have slow and steady breaths. They’re able to calm down and think about what’s going on around them. This is a life skill that we should all work hard at.
On why mindfulness is important for children today
It’s very important for children because one of the first life skills that they learn is how to self-regulate.
hey learn skills to help them settle themselves, to steady their minds, and steady their hearts so they can function in this world as a generous and compassionate individual. This will help with academics because when they’re calm they’re focused.
On the long-term effects of mindfulness
Some of the long-term effects are minimized aggression. The parents, teacher, and child will be able to notice the shift. They will also become self-aware. When I say self-aware, I’m saying that they’re knowledgeable of what they lack. They know their personality and what their characteristics are. They begin to accept themselves and they become more self-confident. Students who are more self-confident are more likely to accept others in spite of their differences.
On when to implement mindful exercises with children
You can start them at any age. Parents can teach this to their toddlers at home. Children don’t know how to verbalize their emotions – they don’t know how to calm themselves. Everything is learned after that. The first thing I recommend is for parents to practice it themselves. Parents are the best models. Children imitate everything we do. Take slow and steady breaths and watch your thoughts slow down. Other tips, are to talk your children for a walk around the house or at the park. Teach them to be more conscious of the things around them. It helps them be more appreciative.