Is it hard for you to imagine your child sitting still and quiet for any reason other than to avoid getting stung by a bee? If so, you should know that sitting still isn’t a requirement for practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness can happen while you’re walking, eating, driving, reading, running, singing—doing pretty much anything except for multitasking. Being mindful, simply means being aware, or “mindful” of what you’re doing while you’re doing it. The only requirement for practicing mindfulness is a single focus. During meditation, the single focus is usually on your breath. That’s because the breath is so easy to access—as long as you’re alive, it’s always there.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, but there are tremendous benefits that make it worth all the effort—less anxiety, better sleep, more confidence, self control, to name a few. Need more? Take a look at the latest research on the benefits mindfulness specifically for children—spoiler alert, you can expect to see a change on your child’s report card!
Imagine though, what your child would do if you asked him to sit still and quietly listen to the sound of his own breath? (Okay, you can stop now if it’s not a pretty sight!) Depending on whether your child is two or twelve, you might be able to entice her with candy or screen time—not that I’m recommending that. Still even with chocolate and iPads, it can be a pretty hard sell. It’s not likely you’ll have any more luck by telling them they could shake off some stress and have more confidence. So how do you get your child to practice mindfulness?
It can help to find a different single focus, something other than the breath. In the picture above, a few Yoga Playhouse yogis are trying to write their name on the wall by using only their toes. They’re not sitting still, they aren’t focusing on their breath, but believe me when I tell you they are focused. You can’t imagine how quiet the room was once they got going.
Employing this single focus is mindfulness and it’s preparing these yogi’s brains for even more mindful tasks.
In his book “The Whole-Brain Child,” Dr. Daniel Siegel explains that the emotional portion of our brains (the limbic area) is fully developed when we are born. Unfortunately, the part of the brain responsible for reasoning (the prefrontal cortex) is not. (Try explaining to a two-year-old why he can’t have that candy we were discussing earlier—you’ll quickly see what Dr. Siegel is talking about.) The prefrontal cortex won’t be fully developed until adulthood but—good news!—researchers are finding out that mindfulness can help build up the prefrontal cortex and all its powers of reasoning!
So, focusing on the breath, the toes, a crayon—anything that captures undivided attention (except for, maybe, electronics) can help build your child’s mental muscles.
Now, back to whether you can get YOUR child to practice mindfulness. Look at the picture below and tell me what you think.
• Ask him to hold a bell and see if he can keep it from ringing as he walks across the room
• Have her color anything really, but mandalas are particularly good for inducing a singular focus. Print some of these out for free!
• Use a meditation jar—I’ll post on how to make your own later!
Try any of these, but don’t underestimate your little yogi. He might just be able to sit still and focus on his breath. A surprising number of yogis at Yoga Playhouse can and do! Try it with your yogi and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear![We’re focusing on Mindfulness during this 8-week session (Winter 2015-16)Mat Yoga Playhouse. Bring your yogi in for some brain-building fun!]