If there was a way to help children pay better attention, be more generous to their peers, perform better in school, and be more aware of themselves and others, would you try it? What if this method was free, relatively easy, and only cost a little of your time and concentration?
Reading this, it sounds too good to be true. But a recent study conducted by researchers at the Center shows that it could indeed be that simple.
Lisa Flook, Lead Scientist, and her team have developed a Mindfulness-Based Kindness Curriculum for Preschoolers.
While researchers are still measuring the effectiveness of the curriculum, they offer some informal advice for families who want to start practicing kindness and mindfulness with their young children.
Flook and outreach specialists Lisa Thomas Prince and Lori Gustafson offer some advice.
While research on mindfulness practices in children is still at an early stage, initial results show possible benefits in self-regulatory ability in children.
Developing the ability to focus attention is an essential skill that benefits children in their relationships, school, sports, music, and other areas of life.
In both children and adults, practicing mindfulness in moments of relative calm can help strengthen the ability to use these strategies when emotions escalate or challenges arise.
Since children learn by observing the adults around them, try to join in with your children when they practice these exercises.
Here are some wellness exercises for families and children:
Create a quiet space
To achieve balance within your busy life, take some time and space for quiet.
Find a place in a bedroom, on a chair in your home, or on a bench in a local park where you and your children can pause for a few moments and develop a sense of familiarity with the silence.
Observe how, by allowing our bodies to rest in silence, our minds manage to calm down and become aware of the elements around us and ourselves in a new and different way.
Pay attention with purpose and curiosity
Adults often tell children to “pay attention,” without really explaining what we mean or even how to do it.
Through mindfulness, we direct our attention to everything that is happening in the present, in the environment around us (such as sounds or images), and in our internal experience (such as sensations or emotions).
For example, go for a walk and try to hear sounds of all kinds. Or, try an exercise of mindful eating and slowly, with concentration and tranquility, explore food with all your senses before eating it.
As if you were seeing it for the first time, noting the smells, colors, textures, and any sensations of pleasure or displeasure.
Pause and notice the breath
Breathing is a resource that we are not always aware of, but it is always with us.
Paying attention to the sensations and movement of the breath in the body can be relaxing and reassuring.
With children, explore breathing by placing them on their backs and observe the movement of the chest or belly as you inhale and exhale.
Try using other times of the day to pay attention to your breathing, such as when stopping at a red light, before answering a phone call or text message, or while waiting in line.
Offer affectionate wishes
Obviously, in our daily life, we find pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral experiences.
Whatever the circumstance, we can practice caring and compassion for ourselves and others by offering wishes such as: “May we be happy, may we be safe, and may we be filled with love.”
Warm wishes can be used when we experience restlessness before testing, when an emergency vehicle passes by with its sirens blasting.
Or simply to deliver kindness to another person, knowing that we all want to be happy.
When we share a loving wish with others verbally or even silently with ourselves, it can help calm emotions and strengthen our feelings of connection.
Asking ourselves the reasons for being grateful opens our eyes to the goodness around us and strengthens our overall sense of well-being.
We can cultivate gratitude in simple ways. For example, we can take a few minutes to reflect on the good things that happened during the day, keep a list of people and things for which we are grateful, or create a gratitude journal using words and pictures.
By pausing and paying attention, we can appreciate things that we would otherwise take for granted, such as the warmth of the sun, clean water to drink, a neighbor’s smile, and even our own breathing.