How to Practice Mindfulness with Kids and Teens

Adolescence was a tough time for many of us. When we weren’t dealing with weird bodily changes, we had to manage the stress of school, friendships, and self-discovery.

With the modern digital landscape, kids and teens today face even more challenges. Social media, information overload, and new methods of validation all contribute to the stress load.

Luckily, kids and teens can take control of those emotions by learning mindfulness.

Emerging studies on mindfulness show that kids and teens can benefit from this practice just as much as adults do. Mindfulness trains kids to enhance self-management of attention which reduces anxiety.

Additionally, kids who participated in mindfulness programs increased emotional resiliency and behavioral regulation.

Asking kids and teens to engage in mindfulness practices may seem like a challenging task, but the benefits of mindfulness should be shared so everyone can discover calm in their life.

Getting Started

Start With Yourself
Kids and teens are like sponges, soaking up information from the environment around them and mirroring those behaviors.

The best way to get them excited about mindfulness is to be excited about it yourself.

Establishing your own practice first will help you figure out what will or will not work before trying it with your kids. Start your practice with these mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises and meditations.

For even more support, try getting the whole family involved. The more the merrier!

Tell Them Why
Set everyone up for success by getting them to buy into the idea of mindfulness right from the start. Share the benefits of mindfulness with kids and teens. Help them understand why it works for managing feelings.

Younger kids may not understand the exact science but older kids might appreciate the profound way the brain and body work.

Keep it Simple
Kids and teens are have a lot to deal with. Mindfulness practice should be kept simple. Don’t use it as a consequence for bad behavior – set aside time for practice without making it too structured. Customize the experience for your child and keep goals realistic.

Here are specific exercises to help you include mindfulness in your everyday routine. These methods will make mindfulness an engaging and fun practice for everyone.

Activate The Senses

Our five senses help us understand the world around us and can also keep us grounded when our minds wander towards anxious thoughts. Try these four ways to get kids using their senses mindfully.

Listening – The Bell Method
Most mindfulness practices encourage finding a quiet place to start. The Bell Method is a good way to help kids feel comfortable in that quiet space. Kids will learn how to stay focused in a quiet environment and practice listening skills.

You’ll need a bell, a set of chimes, or an app that plays soft, ringing sounds for this practice. Ask the children to close their eyes. Tell them you’ll make the sound and they should listen very carefully until they are unable to hear the sound at all. As the ringing sound becomes softer and softer, they will work a little harder to focus on the sound.

Sight – Noticing Walks, Coloring Books
A great way to incorporate mindfulness with physical activity is to go on “noticing” walks or hikes. When walking with your child, ask them to quietly take note of the nature that surrounds them. Spend some time walking in silence. Then take a moment to ask them to describe it to you. If you take a familiar route, make sure to talk about what new things they noticed too. Encourage them to include as much detail as possible.

Another fun way to get them to practice mindfulness is with coloring books. The popularity of coloring books as a method of relaxation makes it easy to find a coloring book of their interest. Have them focus on coloring the same direction and within the lines. While they color, ask them to notice how color changes depending on how hard they press or if they mix other colors.

Taste – Eating a Raisin
How often have you had to rush through a meal instead of really appreciating the food? If the answer is often, then this is an exercise you can participate in with your children.

Prepare for this exercise by getting comfortable and slowing your breath to a steady pace. When you feel relaxed, you can begin. Pick up a raisin and observe it. Ask questions about its shape, size, color, smell, feeling in your hand, texture, temperature, etc. Notice every part of the food in its state in front of you.

Then bring the raisin to your mouth. Notice how the raisin feels in your mouth, what it tastes like, and feel what your mouth wants to do with this food in it. Do this all without biting.

Now bite into it and run through the same observations. Did the taste change? How different is the texture now? How does the food feel after chewing and swallowing? How does your stomach feel?

Mindful eating makes us slow down to appreciate the food we consume and can help kids develop eating habits that focus on hunger instead of emotion.

Touch – Finger Painting
Just like coloring, mindful finger painting allows little ones to use the colors as points of focus for concentration. The added bonus of finger painting is that you’re throwing in the sense of touch. Ask kids to take note of how the paint feels in their hand, then on the paper, and then when they move it around.

Finger painting may be a little messy but it’s a fun and unique way for children to practice being mindful.

Observe Breath

The important relationship between breath and stress-relief is the point of focus in Spire’s mission for wellness.

Teaching children about that relationship at an early age can mean a stronger foundation and better breathing practices in the long run.

These special techniques are designed to make mindful breathing simple.

Breathing Buddies

This technique works especially well with younger children (and those young at heart). Start by having the kids lay down on their backs. Take a favorite stuffed animal and place it on top of their stomach. Direct the kids to breathe in and breathe out. While they breathe, tell them to focus their attention on their ‘buddy’ rising and falling with their breath.

Counting Breath
This is a technique that is as simple as it sounds. With each breath in, count the seconds it takes to complete it and with each breath out, do the same. Sometimes the simplest methods are the most beneficial.

Guided Breathing for Teens
Guided mindful breathing meditations are great for teens who are able to handle it on their own.

Give them their headphones and have them try it out in the privacy of their own space. With this, you empower them to take their mindfulness journey into their own hands.

Talk About Feelings

Identifying emotions creates a solid foundation to managing them. While kids might not know how to interpret the nuances of different emotions, they can learn how to describe them.

One way to do this is to create a “Personal Weather Report”, an exercise that comes from Eline Snel’s meditation book Sitting Still Like a Frog.

Encourage your children to create a weather report reflecting their current feelings. By using words like sunny, stormy, cloudy, rainy, breezy, tsunami, etc.,  children can observe their present emotional state without letting it define who they are.

Just like the weather outside, they’ll realize that they can’t change their emotions but they can change how they relate to them.

Use Technology

Take the technology that can cause stress and turn it into a tool for mindfulness. There are plenty of apps in the market that help build mindful meditation habits. You can also use Soundcloud to find guided audio meditations that are easy to follow along.

Kids and teens might not even know that they’re stressed out until they’re caught in the middle of negative emotions. Spire helps by monitoring breathing patterns and sending a gentle notification to check in before the mountain of stress hits. 
Kids and adults may have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye on certain topics like TV shows or bedtime, but we can all agree that stress and anxiety are not fun for anyone. Give your children the tools to manage their stress by introducing them to mindfulness. Have them pick out which exercises they like best and help them create their own style. As they practice more and more, they’ll develop skills that can help them in adulthood, and more importantly, they can find a little more calm in their life.

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