Mindfulness has endless benefits for children. It can help them manage and regulate their emotions, reduces stress/anxiety, increase well-being, improve academic performance and increase social skills. Here, we will explain:
What mindfulness is. The history of mindfulness. The benefits of mindfulness for children. How mindfulness can benefit children with special educational needs (SEN). How to teach mindfulness to children and create a mindful classroom and home.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, at its core, is the practice of being fully present in the moment, intentionally and without judgment. It involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the environment around you. While this may sound simple, it's a skill that requires cultivation and can bring profound benefits to one's mental and emotional well-being.
At the heart of mindfulness are three essential components:
Mindfulness begins with the conscious recognition of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. It's about observing your inner and outer experiences without trying to change them.
This involves directing your focus to the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It's about being fully engaged in what you're doing right now.
Mindfulness encourages you to suspend judgment and self-criticism. Instead of labeling experiences as good or bad, right or wrong, you simply acknowledge them as they are.
Click video to see how how mindfulness has helped these kids!
The History of Mindfulness
The roots of mindfulness can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions. One of the earliest recorded practices of mindfulness is found in Buddhist teachings, where it's known as "sati" in Pali or "smṛti" in Sanskrit. In Buddhism, mindfulness is a core element of the Eightfold Path, a guide to ethical and mental development.
The spread of mindfulness to the Western world can be largely attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a scientist and meditation teacher. In the late 1970s, Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. This program aimed to bring mindfulness practices into a secular context, making it accessible to people from all walks of life.
The success of MBSR led to the integration of mindfulness into various fields, including psychology, medicine, and education. Over the years, it has gained widespread recognition as an effective approach to reducing stress, managing chronic pain, and enhancing overall well-being.
Can mindfulness be used with children?
Studies have suggested that mindfulness has numerous positive benefits on children's attention, emotional well-being, social skills, and academic performance. Incorporating mindfulness into a child's life can lead to numerous benefits that support their overall development.
What is the goal of mindfulness for kids?
The goal of mindfulness for kids is to help them develop greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, and a sense of calm and focus. It teaches children to pay attention to their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment. Mindfulness can also improve their resilience to stress, enhance their social and emotional skills, and promote overall well-being. It can be a valuable tool for managing the challenges and pressures of childhood and adolescence.
What are the benefits of mindfulness for children?
Improved Attention and Focus:
Studies have shown that mindfulness practices enhance children's ability to concentrate and sustain attention. A study by Felver et al. (2013) found that mindfulness training improved attention and academic performance in elementary school children.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety:
Mindfulness has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety in children. A study by Burke et al. (2009) demonstrated that mindfulness-based interventions effectively reduced symptoms of anxiety in children and adolescents.
Enhanced Emotional Regulation:
Research by Zoogman et al. (2014) suggests that mindfulness interventions help children and adolescents develop better emotional regulation skills. It teaches them to respond to difficult emotions in a more balanced and less reactive manner.
Improved Social Skills:
Mindfulness practices promote empathy and prosocial behavior in children. A study conducted by Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor (2010) found that mindfulness programs in schools led to increased social skills and decreased aggression among students.
Better Academic Performance:
Mindfulness has been associated with improved academic performance. A study published in the journal "Mindfulness" by Maynard et al. (2019) revealed that mindfulness interventions had a positive impact on students' academic achievement.
Mindfulness programs have been shown to improve overall well-being in children. A study by Napoli et al. (2005) reported that mindfulness training led to increased well-being and life satisfaction among adolescents.
How can mindfulness support children with special educational needs (SEN)?
Mindfulness can be particularly beneficial for children with special educational needs (SEN) in various ways. Here are some ways it can help:
1. Emotional Regulation: Mindfulness practices can help children with SEN regulate their emotions, reducing anxiety and frustration.
2. Improved Attention: Mindfulness techniques can enhance attention and focus.
3. Social Learning: Mindfulness can enhance social-emotional learning, helping children with SEN in developing their interpersonal skills and empathy.
4. Stress Reduction: It can help alleviate stress and anxiety commonly experienced by children with SEN and improve their overall well-being.
5. Self-Awareness: Mindfulness promotes self-awareness, which is essential for children with SEN to understand and manage their unique needs and challenges.
6. Decreased impulsivity: Mindfulness practices can lead to reduced impulsivity.
How to teach mindfulness to a child:
Practice Together: Children often learn best by example. Engage in mindfulness practices together as a family. Websites like Mindful Schools (https://www.mindfulschools.org/) offer resources for both parents and kids.
Mindful Breathing: Teach children simple breathing exercises. The website Headspace for Kids (https://www.headspace.com/meditation/kids) provides guided breathing exercises tailored for kids.
Mindful Coloring: Coloring books designed for mindfulness can help children focus on the present moment. You can find printable coloring pages on the Mindful Coloring website (https://mindfulcoloring.com/).
Nature Walks: Encourage outdoor exploration. Websites like Nature Mindfulness (https://www.naturemindfulness.com/) offer ideas for mindful nature activities.
Yoga for Kids: Introduce yoga and mindfulness through child-friendly yoga poses and activities. Cosmic Kids Yoga (https://www.cosmickids.com/) offers fun and interactive yoga videos for kids.
Guided Imagery: Use guided imagery exercises to help children relax and visualize positive experiences. The website Imaginations: Fun Relaxation Stories and Meditations for Kids (https://stressfreekids.com/pages/imaginations) provides resources.
Mindful Eating: Teach children to savor their food by engaging all their senses during meals. The Center for Mindful Eating (https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/) offers resources for mindful eating practices.
Mindful Games: Play mindfulness games with children to make it enjoyable. The website Kids Relaxation (https://kidsrelaxation.com/) offers game ideas.
Create a Calm Space: Designate a quiet and comfortable space for mindfulness practice at home. Include cushions, soft lighting, and calming decorations.
Mindfulness Apps: Consider using apps designed for kids, such as Smiling Mind (https://www.smilingmind.com.au/), which provides age-appropriate mindfulness exercises.
These resources and strategies can help parents and educators create an environment that fosters mindfulness in children. By integrating mindfulness practices into daily life, children can develop essential skills for emotional regulation, focus, and overall well-being.
Mindful Schools. (https://www.mindfulschools.org/)
Headspace for Kids. (https://www.headspace.com/meditation/kids)
Mindful Coloring. (https://mindfulcoloring.com/)
Nature Mindfulness. (https://www.naturemindfulness.com/)
Cosmic Kids Yoga. (https://www.cosmickids.com/)
Imaginations: Fun Relaxation Stories and Meditations for Kids. (https://stressfreekids.com/pages/imaginations)
The Center for Mindful Eating. (https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/)
Kids Relaxation. (https://kidsrelaxation.com/)
Smiling Mind. (https://www.smilingmind.com.au/)
Felver, J. C., et al. (2013). Mindfulness in school psychology: Applications for intervention and professional practice. School Psychology Forum: Research in Practice, 7(3), 103-119.
Burke, C. A. (2009). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: A preliminary review of current research in an emergent field. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19(2), 133-144.
Zoogman, S., et al. (2014). Mindfulness interventions with youth: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 6(2), 290-302.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre- and early adolescents' well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1(3), 137-151.
Maynard, B. R., et al. (2019). Mindfulness-based interventions for improving cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and socioemotional functioning of primary and secondary school students. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 15(1), e1032.
Napoli, M., et al. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The Attention Academy. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21(1), 99-125.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. Hyperion.
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822-848.
Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1(2), 105-115.
Wallace, B. A., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006). Mental balance and well-being: Building bridges between Buddhism and Western psychology. American Psychologist, 61(7), 690-701.
[Reference: Jansen, P. et al. (2019). Mindfulness-based interventions in adolescents with ADHD: A systematic review. Journal of Attention Disorders, 23(6), 591-602.]
[Reference: Zylowska, L. et al. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD: A feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 737-746.]
[Reference: Semple, R. J. et al. (2005). Does mindfulness meditation enhance attention in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(5), 775-781.]
[Reference: Sibinga, E. M. et al. (2016). School-based mindfulness instruction: An RCT. Pediatrics, 137(1), e20152532.]
Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 28(6), 643-656.]
[Reference: Napoli, M. et al. (2005). Mindfulness training for school children with ADHD and their parents: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Attention Disorders, 9(2), 384-392.]