Estimated read time : 7 minutes
Stress and anxiety are on the rise for kids. Between social issues to grades to global and political crises, children can feel immense pressure to perform or to be more than who they are.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool against stress and anxiety. The benefits of mindfulness begin immediately and last far beyond the practice session.
1. It lowers stress and anxiety
2. It improves their emotional regulation skills
3. It promotes greater attention span
4. It increases self-esteem
5. It teaches them to become more self-aware
6. It improves academic performance
A simple definition of mindfulness is noticing what is happening now.
When kids work to notice the now, they slow down, they pay attention to what is in front of them, and they worry less about things they cannot control. Instead of trying to rush through work or an activity, they notice the parts of the activity itself.
It can be difficult for some children to know what to focus on- how to slow down. It can be enough to just focus on their breath. The point is to make mindfulness accessible, not one more thing to worry about.
As our children face more outside pressures, they also face more stress and anxiety. The effects of stress on our kids is profound. Mindfulness can reduce that stress.
When we use mindfulness and focus on the present, it can stop anxiety and allow different thoughts and emotions in. When we help our kids learn mindfulness, we are giving them the tools they need to push back against the anxiety.
Yes, they will still feel pressure, but hopefully, the pressure won’t blossom into general anxiety or a panic attack. They will be able to see the anxiety forming and use mindfulness tools to work through the emotions, not resist them.
Emotional regulation is important, but often only discussed when we notice kids who struggle with it. But working on emotional regulation is important for all children.
Mindfulness practice can help. It gives them a productive way of handling big emotions and lets them see beyond what they are doing now. When children feel big emotions, especially anger, they feel that those emotions are wrong, which can compound the problem.
Practising mindfulness techniques, like meditation or using journals for kids, can give your child a way of working through the emotion in a productive way. It gives them a way to process their emotions.
When we practice mindfulness, we work to focus on one thing and one thing only. This task can be difficult for children. We would much rather think about many different things that interest us rather than the one thing we are “supposed” to be thinking about.
Working on mindfulness builds our children’s abilities to filter out external thoughts and hones their ability to focus. Mindfulness teaches them that distractions happen, but it’s important to pull your attention back without blame or confusion.
The work in mindfulness practice spills over into other areas. When children get better at holding their focus during meditation, it makes it easier for them to hold their focus during math class.
Low self-esteem hurts children because it tells them they aren’t good enough. The pressure to compare themselves to their peers means there is always someone “better” than they are.
Mindfulness practice supports self-esteem because it helps shift the focus from performance to self-acceptance. With mindfulness practise, children learn and realize that they have
worth no matter how they do on a test or in a game or how much their parents love them. Their worth isn’t tied to anything. It just is.
This acceptance allows them more freedom and higher self-esteem because their value is intrinsic. They are worthy of happiness and peace because they are, not because of what they do.
Mindfulness practice also helps children become more self-aware. When children practice mindfulness techniques, they learn to tune into how they are really feeling and thinking.
While that’s an important skill, it’s not all. They also learn that those thoughts and feelings don’t need to control them. Instead, they are able to feel the emotions and not react.
It’s not about pushing the emotions away. Rather, it’s allowing the emotions and thoughts to happen without thinking something needs to be done about them. True self-awareness builds self-control. When our children really understand what they are thinking and feeling, they are better equipped to make wise choices about those thoughts and feelings.
Because of the emphasis on formal education (in highschool to get into top universities and in college to get the top jobs), our children face an inordinate amount of pressure on their academic performance.
The pressure backfires because the increased stress and anxiety students face can make their performance worse.
Mindfulness has been shown to help.
Because mindfulness practice helps people focus on the here and now, it helps students learn to calmly attend to the task at hand. Instead of worrying about the mountain of homework, they work calmly and productively on the assignment in front of them. Instead of thinking about the Biology test they need to take, they can focus on the English lesson. This ability to focus on the present learning will help their academic performance.
Mindfulness also helps students handle the underlying emotions academic performance puts on them.
When students learn how to be present with their emotions, they can feel their worry about school and then let it pass. Mindfulness practice helps children realize what they can control and gives them the tools they need to do that.
Regardless of your child’s interests or personality, they can benefit from mindfulness practice. From emotional regulation to academic performance, the ability to be present and calm supports their development and growth.
Though it can feel difficult to work on mindfulness with our children, just helping them focus on their breath for a few minutes each day can produce the benefits of increased focus and emotional awareness.
Mindfulness practice doesn’t have to be something you ask them to do. Try practicing with them to build the benefits into your own life too!