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How mindfulness helps children fulfil their potential

Would you like to boost your child’s learning, self-esteem and sense of joy in life? Mindfulness could be the answer, as Aspria’s Maria Luisa Fissasegola reports

Mindfulness is enjoying more and more time in the spotlight these days, both in the media and in society – yet at this stage, the focus of its application is generally among adults.

In fact, the benefits of mindfulness for children could be even more dramatic than among adults as – in addition to supporting general wellbeing throughout life – it supports and empowers learning, emotional and creative intelligence.

Shaping our children

Through mindfulness, children learn to cultivate gratitude, and to handle disturbing thoughts and difficult emotions. They also learn to develop kindness towards themselves and others. They learn to pay attention to the present moment with openness and curiosity.

A 2014 University of Edinburgh study investigated the experience of children taking part in a structured mindfulness programme. Here are the results.

From a psychological point of view, mindfulness helps children and adolescents:
• Recognise and regulate their emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant
• Focus on the present, pay attention, improve memory and concentration.

From a behavioural and relational point of view, it helps them:
• Learned to be less impulsive and less aggressive
• Communicate and listen in a more active and empathetic way
• Improve their relationships with peers and with their family.

Mindfulness for children

So how do we go about engaging our children in mindfulness?
The first point is that they themselves must decide to be present and aware of what’s happening. It’s crucial that we involve children in the decision to get involved in mindfulness – that they decide for themselves that this is what they want.
Start by agreeing on a specific moment in the day to practise together in a quiet place, turning off TV, mobile phones and PCs, breathing consciously for a few minutes.
It might help if you let the child lie down, perhaps with their favourite soft toy on their stomach – or simply with their hands laid on their belly – so you can ask them to observe how their hands (or their toy) rise and fall to the rhythm of their breathing.
To practise in an informal way, try to encourage your children to recognise and explore their own emotions – both positive and negative – in a gentle and non-judgmental way. Emotions can transform when we remain open and curious.
These are just the basics though: the resources below will help you craft these into an approach to suit your child. The most important thing is to make it fun and interesting, not boring.

o The free app, Mindfulness for Children
o Sitting still like a frog – mindfulness exercises for kids (and their parents), by Eline Snel
o Anh’s anger, by Gail Silver
o Mindful discipline: A loving approach to setting limits and raising an emotionally intelligent child, by Shauna L Shapiro and Chris White
o Planting seeds – practising mindfulness with children, by Thich Nhat Hanh

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