Photo by Trevor Cole

Mindfulness with kids

Mindfulness is not just for adults. Kids benefit from mindfulness exercises and meditations as well. It may even come much easier to them than to us.

When I was a little kid I often couldn’t sleep. Over time I developed my own mindfulness exercise which helped a lot. I would lie very still on my back and I would follow my breath and imagine it to travel in large circles, all the way down to my feet on my in-breath and then over the outside of my body and into the top of my head on my out-breath. All the time I would lie very still. Not moving any part of my body. After a while I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, then a little bit later I couldn’t feel my arms anymore and then I would be so relaxed that falling asleep was easy.

This was way before I had ever heard of meditation and mindfulness. I started meditating when my youngest daughter was about 9 years old, but I was mostly focused on my own practice back then. I didn’t know how to make it fun and attractive for kids and mindfulness for children was not something you heard a lot about.

Sitting still like a frog

One day a member of my meditation group, a school teacher, showed us a book written by Eline Snel about mindfulness for kids. It was called “Stilzitten als een kikker” or “Sitting still like a frog”, because there is also an English version. She told us that she enjoyed the audio meditations as well, even though they are made for kids.

Even though my own children are young adults now, I decided this week to read the book and I really liked it. Although the cover gives the impression that it is written for the children themselves, it is actually written for parents and teachers. It has mindfulness exercises aimed at children age 5 till 12, some in the form of games, but there are also audio meditations you can listen to. These audio meditations are really nice. You can listen to the English meditations online.

The games and meditations help children calm down, deal with stress, anxiety or anger, recognize their emotions and express them in a healthy way. A very nice exercise is the Personal Weather Report, where the children learn to express how they are feeling in terms of the weather. Come to think of it, this is an exercise that is done among adults as well sometimes at retreats or meditation evenings.

In the chapter about kindness, there is an exercise that helps children in dealing with people they don’t like, an exercise that helps strengthening their kindness and an exercise that helps children to become aware when they are unkind to themselves or to others, in a self-compassionate way.

There are exercises to help children feel their limits so that they learn to sense how far they can go. And some tips for parents how to set limits for their kids with firmness and flexibility.

This is a book I wish my parents had when I was young, or that I had when my kids were young. I’m glad that nowadays there are so many more resources for parents and teachers to help children become emotionally stable and aware teens and adults. And apart from that, I think these meditations and exercises provide a fun way of having quality time with your kids, and strengthening you own mindfulness as well.

If you have kids, is mindfulness something you practice with them? Is that easy for you in your context, or do you experience difficulties? Share your tips and stories in the comments area!

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