Mindfulness For The Busy Child
Updated: Feb 5, 2018
Staying busy is the new normal in today's culture. From the professional, the stay at home caregiver, and yes, even the child. Soccer practice, piano lessons, SAT prep, and the list goes on. Children are finding themselves more and more busy, pressured to meet unrealistic deadlines and live up to exaggerated expectations. As a result, children are experiencing more stress and have limited time and resources to cope with life demands. Research indicates that children who experience chronic stress tend to have greater health issues, such as obesity, which is linked to increased risk for sleeping problems, increased or decreased appetite, headaches, and unresolved anger. Over time, children who are repeatedly exposed to stress are also more likely to have mental health issues, such as depression.
So, while staying busy has been known to be a great distraction, and even a motivator to complete tasks, where do caregivers draw the line? How can caregivers model balance and self-care?
One tool you can try with your child is Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of being present, non-judgmental, aware, and engaged. It is showing appreciation for what is- not what should be or could be. There are many benefits for youth to practice mindfulness, such as improved resiliency to cope with stress and trauma, increased self-compassion and greater use of coping skills to manage school related stress. Mindfulness has also been known to decrease depression and anxiety in youth. In fact, research indicates that children without mental illness are also better able to manage stress after practicing mindfulness exercises.
You don't have to be an expert - Implementing mindfulness can be as simple as encouraging your child to "stop and notice", slow down, and show appreciation for themselves or something meaningful in their world.
Here are some practical exercises on mindfulness for you and your child to try together:
1. Model appreciation by praising your child's efforts, not outcomes. "You worked hard on that".
2. Play a game outside, noticing smells, sights, touch, and sounds
3. Practice a deep breathing exercise. Dr. Matthew Brensilver explains a step by step exercise here.*
To learn more about mindfulness research and exercises for school aged children, visit https://www.mindfulness.org
Written by Oksana Thompson, LMHC, NCC, MHP, Certified Play Therapist
Oksana Thompson is a licensed mental health counselor and certified play therapist. She is a member of NBCC and the Association for Play Therapy. Oksana is the business owner of Inner Wellness Counseling PLLC.
American Psychological Association. (2010, November 9). APA survey raises concern about health impact of stress on children and families. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/11/stress-in-america.aspx
*Brensilver, Matthew. (2017, December 18). Two bellies, two breaths, two hands. Retrieved from https://www.mindfulschools.org/personal-practice/two-bellies-two-hands-two-breaths/
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Mindful Schools. (2018). Research on Mindfulness. Retrieved from https://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/
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