Mindfulness with Kids
I am a firm believer that you need to have a practice in order to teach a practice. We can tell kids to take deep breaths in the heat of an emotional breakdown, but if we don’t know how to stop and take a deep breath ourselves, it just won’t be as effective in helping the child (and yourself!) truly regulate.
The first time I truly connected with myself I was 24 years old. Before that, I never knew how to slow down, take a breath, feel my feet beneath me, and know that I WAS IN CONTROL. I was in control of my thoughts, my anxiety, my shame, my guilt...and repairing emotional damage within myself.
When I was able to do this, I knew how important it was for me to teach these skills to children early on. I had a clear vision that simple mindfulness tools could prevent long term mental health challenges and emotional detachment.
I know what you're wondering, how do I start? Here are a few real life scenarios to help readers see how one simple shift can change everything:
A group of children are playing outside. One child is trying to say something, but nobody is listening. This child gets extremely frustrated and starts yelling and maybe even hitting or throwing things. You (the Teacher/Parent) go over and hold the child's arm (keeping everyone safe) and tell the child who is upset to take a deep breath. The child looks at you and storms off, still angry and emotionally dysregulated. You check on the other children.
A group of children are playing outside. One child is trying to say something, but nobody is listening. This child gets extremely frustrated and starts yelling and maybe even hitting or throwing things. You (the Teacher/Parent) go over and hold the child's arm (keeping everyone safe) and make eye contact with that child. You ask them to walk with you, keeping close contact. Once you have some space, you get on the same level, make eye contact, and start breathing slowly and deeply (because you know how). The child starts to regulate, based on your ability to regulate yourself. You are modeling a simple healthy coping strategy.
- We can address issues, keep children safe, and help emotionally regulate without shaming.
- Kids regulate based on our emotions, so practice and model for change.
- Don't be hard on yourself for being reactive at times, most of us adults don't have these skills yet.
- Emotional regulation is as simple as taking a few deep breaths, or walking away and breathing.
- The more you practice connecting with your breath (mindfulness), the more accessible it feels in the heat of the moment.
This week, let’s practice modeling mindfulness with kids and simple ways to introduce it to even the youngest children.
This week’s practice:
- Notice when you tell children to take deep breaths, but you are also dysregulated.
- When you notice, rather than telling them to breath, your only job is to breath.
- By taking care of yourself, you are modeling healthy emotional regulation for children who are witness.
In the classroom:
- Kind Mind has developed a beautiful Guided Audio Collection (in collaboration with Kamilah Majied) to promote mindfulness, self awareness, and equity/inclusivity in school communities.
- Find 1-5 minutes each day to simply be QUIET and have the students connect with their own breathing. It is that simple.
- For young kids (ages 5-7 years old) placing a hand on the belly or using a weighted object can help them really feel their breath as it moves.
- MODEL your practice.
- Make a cozy space to practice and leave the door open when you do. Invite your kids in to participate, reminding them that this is a space to be quiet and still.
- Give them permission to leave at any time, don’t force it.