When you’re working hard to cultivate a positive, creative environment for your family and yourself, there are few more welcome discoveries than a practice you can share with your kids. Finding activities and exercises that all generations can enjoy and benefit from is a rare pleasure, and sometimes it pays to look closer at activities that we might not have considered suitable.
Mindful living is widely portrayed as an exclusively adult mode of thought, but not only is it ideal for children to excel at (consider their imagination and lack of inhibition), it is a great discipline to instil at an early age. A child who grows up with a philosophy of mindfulness will learn to appreciate the world in a richer and more complex way, as well as becoming equipped to deal with the difficulties life can pose.
What’s more, the short-term benefits are considerable. Studies have shown that mindfulness can improve a child’s mood and self-esteem, as well as improving their performance in the classroom. A child who practices mindfulness may see improved development in emotional intelligences such as empathy and optimism, and symptoms of anxiety and depression may be reduced. Naturally, this has a knock-on effect for the whole family: this is the family as organic unit at its best.
So how to go about transferring these apparently grown-up skills to your little ones? Like so much in parenting, the first step is to lead by example. If your kids see you meditating, or taking your time to appreciate the world around you, they will become curious and follow suit. And you can, of course, share your discoveries with them. Share with them the sights, sounds and smells that you notice and encourage them to make their own discoveries by asking them to respond. Making it part of a family culture, for example taking time for a moment of gratitude at mealtimes, can help the philosophy to develop a life of its own within your home.
But you can adapt these techniques to your child’s own interests, too, by using games and exercises to raise their awareness of the sensory world around them. It may be a tough haul, but drag them away from the TV or tablet to play with some more tactile alternatives, whether they be Lego bricks, paper and pencils, or crafting with fabric. While they play with these materials, encourage them to appreciate and describe the qualities of each, and to think about where they came from.
Mindfulness need not only be reserved for playtime and family fun. When your child is upset, rather than trying to pacify them try helping them to discover the source and the nature of their feelings, by describing where these feelings are and what they feel like. Let them know it’s okay to be angry or sad. In this way, mindfulness can begin to reach every part of their emotional and creative life, and really make a difference in how they interact with the world, enjoy their childhood, and prepare for adulthood.
For more tips on how to encourage this development, read this infographic by Ozicare, which breaks it down into tasks and approaches that are easy to integrate into your daily lives.