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This guest post was written by Jennifer Landis, the mindful millennial mama behind the blog Mindfulness Mama. She shares tips about healthy living, parenting, relationships, budgeting, mindfulness, and momming with a healthy dose of sass. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Mindfulness can help reduce stress, increase gratitude, and help you live a happier and more satisfying life — if you can get out of your own head and learn how to be in the moment instead of living in the past or the future. Mindfulness is something we may do for ourselves, but we don’t often take the time to encourage this trait in our children. Our children can benefit from those same mindfulness skills that we’ve been struggling to learn — if you can get them to slow down long enough for the lessons to sink in.
How can you help your kids to be more mindful and maybe learn a few tricks for yourself in the process? Make your mindfulness exercises fun, incorporate the practice of mindfulness into everything, and just let them play. We don’t need to turn our children into carbon copies of ourselves because being mindful is a very individual practice. Instead, give them the tools to create their own forms of living in the present. If you don’t try to force it on them, you’ll be surprised how quickly they pick it up. Here are five of our favorite ways to help little ones live in the moment.
Lead By Example
Let’s be frank here — kids are more likely to copy what they see us doing rather than do what we tell them. Children tend to live by “monkey see, monkey do,” so if we want them to embrace mindfulness, we need to start by making ourselves more mindful. Focus on your practice, whether that means meditation, mindful eating, or anything in between. Be aware in your life, and they’ll want to copy what you do so they can be just like mom and dad.
Make Mindfulness Exercises Kid-Friendly
Trying to get kids — especially young ones — to sit still and meditate for any length of time is akin to pulling teeth. Don’t try to convince your children to follow your adult-centric mindfulness practice. They’ll get bored, and it’s really hard to be mindful of yourself if you’re yelling at your little ones to sit back down.
Instead, try to make their exercises more kid-friendly. Things like focusing on their heartbeat after 60 seconds of activity or tuning into their breathing for the same amount of time can be a good way to introduce your little ones to the concept of mindfulness without them getting frustrated or bored. Grab some coloring books for a fun mindful coloring activity or take your yoga mats outside for some relaxing outdoor yoga animal poses.
Don’t expect them to sit through a 15- or 20-minute meditation session, at least at first. You’ll have to work up to that. Start with fun activities that don’t last more than 60 seconds, at least at the beginning. Eventually, they will expand their mindfulness repertoire.
Let Them Play
This current generation of children doesn’t play outside as much as we used to. This isn’t just the opinion of an old millennial — studies have shown that children play outdoors half as often as their parents did at the same age. Believe it or not, mindfulness isn’t all about sitting still and meditating or focusing on your breathing — even for adults. Play can be an integral part of learning to be mindful.
When kids are playing, they’re not thinking about what they did this morning or what they have to do this afternoon. They’re in the moment, part of the game, and more mindful than most adults will ever be. Let them play.
Incorporate It Into Everything
You don’t need a specific time of day to teach your children about mindfulness. Instead, incorporate it into every aspect of their day. When they’re brushing their teeth in the morning, encourage them to be mindful of each motion and what it does to help protect their dental health. You can even transform dreaded household chores into fun and mindful activities for your kids. A huge win-win for the whole family!
Make It Fun
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be all seriousness all the time — especially with kids. If you want your children to embrace mindfulness, make it fun. You can turn nearly anything into a game if you think about it for a few minutes. Kids learn better when they’re having fun, which is why play is so important, both for mindfulness and for education. You might find that these games help you learn to be more mindful, too.
How do you help your children be more mindful?