Mindfulness does have multiple meanings – it varies depending on who you ask. While not a psychiatrist, I consider mindfulness to be a helpful strategy to focus on the present moment without judgment. It is beneficial for children to learn and for parents to practice.
For this article, I will explain the various aspects of mindfulness as I studied it in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I found it useful in my life with my kids.
Mindfulness has a history in multiple faith practices and has been used secularly in mainstream psychology over the last 25 years. Some people associate awareness with relaxation, but awareness is different.
It’s being aware of the moment and the moment may be painful or irritating so we’d be aware of our discomfort and frustration.
Mindfulness is different from meditation in that we live our lives, sleep, speak, and work, and we should do so attentively. We don’t need a quiet space or a blank mind.
I see that it’s like a lighthouse beam. We are the light and can reflect on our perceptions through our beam of awareness. We call this mindfulness.
If we think about mindfulness in this way we can also see the benefits to children. Focus gives understanding about what they concentrate on, their bodies, feelings and emotions.
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE TO TEACH THE MINDFULNESS CONCEPT
This first exercise of mindfulness is called the lighthouse beam.
Simple exercise for children to learn about mindfulness by using a flashlight
Give your child a torch at night.
Ask your child to sit on a cushion and tell them they ‘re going to be a lighthouse. The lighthouse needs to slowly shine the torch around the room and be on the lookout for any boat. Boats are anything that’s a rectangle shape, and they need to do this slowly and carefully, because they don’t want to miss any boats.
You can change the object you ‘re looking at to suit your child’s age. For example, you might want to look for objects that start with a letter, or are made of cotton, or whatever you like.
Tell your child that they are like a lighthouse and that their mind is like a torch beam. You will learn to have a stronger focus together.
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE: HOW TO FOCUS THE AWARENESS
Before you begin being mindful, cover the hand of your child with a towel.
Ask your child to tell you what they’ve ever learned about his hands. Just ask them to tell you all!
Now, tell your child you ‘re going to take another look at your face, but this time you ‘re going to do it carefully.
Children’s awareness exercise on how to focus their awareness
Ask your child to describe every detail they notice about their hands.
Isn’t it amazing how much more we think when we really center our consciousness! I was surprised how much I learned about my own hands, even though I see them every day!
Mindfulness Exercises for Kids: teaching children to be non-judgmental
Through this segment, we see the emphasis of consciousness in the present moment without judgment.
It takes a lot of practice. Consciously or unconsciously, all our lives have been judged. Like, whether or not someone is attractive, good or bad. Judgments have their place, but most people are doing too much.
Here are some examples of how children can judge:
- Judging that they’re supposed to be able to do something well the first time they try it and get upset when they can’t. Ride a bike, for example.
- They are judging that their school bag isn’t as good as another person’s backpack.
- Judging that someone is no longer a friend of theirs because they said something like that.
But we can’t just stop judging, even if we want to. Everything we can do is practice being non-judgmental. It is also essential that we let ourselves be judged for judgment.
We need to stick to the facts to be non-judgmental. We can describe an object in terms of color, texture, scent, or sound, but we don’t need to interpret it, for example, it’s magnificent or ugly.
This exercise may work better with children 11 years of age or older.
Print a picture of Beauty and an image of the Beast, or any other image that invokes judgment.
Tell your child to explain the picture without using such terms as good or bad, ugly or beautiful. Instead, they ought to use words that are facts. For example, “She ‘s got blue eyes and blonde hair.”
Discuss the concept of judgment with your child.