Far more than just a buzzword, “mindfulness” is a great way for children to transform how they react to stressful situations. Forming the right habits at a young age makes it easier to be mindful as an adult. At its simplest, mindfulness is a technique for learning how to pay attention to the details in the present moment. The benefits are numerous—including reduced stress and anxiety, improved academic performance and sleep, enhanced focus, fewer attention problems, and deeper relationships with others.
With heightened academic pressure trickling down to kids as early as kindergarten, resulting in less time for play and the arts, children today are faced with an unprecedented amount of stress and anxiety—25% of 13- to 18-year-olds will experience an anxiety disorder according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Such early stress levels can negatively impact learning, memory, behavior, and both physical and mental health, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Escalating stress and pressure continue into middle and high school—a survey of 22,000 high school students conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that, on average, students reported feeling negative emotions, such as stress, fatigue, and boredom, 75% of the time. An antidote to all this stress has never been needed more. Enter mindfulness.
As a parent, it’s important to have your own mindfulness practice. Children learn a lot from watching others, so they are more likely to succeed in their own practice if they see you benefiting from and enjoying yours. Here are some popular mindful exercises that are easy to integrate into your daily routine:
A popular mindfulness exercise known as STOP can also be helpful:
Teaching mindfulness to children and adolescents is a growing trend—in private practices as part of therapy and more and more, as part of the curriculum in both Special Ed and General Ed classes throughout the country. It is becoming increasingly clear that the pressures of the education system are out of control and we are all looking for a way to change that. Teaching our children to manage their stress and anxiety is a life-long skill that they will be able to take with them through high school, college, and into adulthood and could very well be the antidote we’ve been looking for.