Mindfulness is a type of meditation adapted from Buddhism that has increased in popularity over the past decade. The intention of mindfulness is to relieve a person of negative thoughts and anxieties. During mindful meditations, a person should keep her mind focused on the present, while letting go of past and future worries. Most children who practice this are happier and more relaxed in their daily lives. Kids can easily practice mindfulness at home or at school, and it is appropriate for all ages.
While mindfulness benefits all children, it is especially helpful for those with ADHD, autism and general anxiety and depression. Mindfulness helps children deal with their feelings by focusing on their breathing, while their thoughts float away. There are several ways for a child to practice mindfulness.
Breathing buddies: The child begins by lying on his back and placing a stuffed animal on his belly. He should focus on how the toy moves with his belly as he breathes. Ask him questions about any sensations or thoughts he is feeling as he breathes, and encourage him to let those thoughts go. The intention with this technique is for the child to be aware of his breathing, and how it affects his mind and body.
Blowing bubbles: This technique is a great way for children to practice controlled breathing. Blowing bubbles helps her to breathe deeply and relax. Tell your child to focus on one bubble at a time, despite the many bubbles flurrying around her. Focusing on one bubble helps the child let go of excess thoughts.
Scents: Find several pleasant smelling items around the house or garden. Candles, flowers, herbs and fruit are good options. Hand one item at a time to the child, telling him to breathe deeply and smell the item. Ask him how he feels when he smells each item. This allows the child to free himself from his stressors, focusing on the item and how it makes him feel.
Movement: Many children prefer moving as they focus on their breathing. Suggest simple yoga poses, like cat/cow, or take the child on a walk. As the child breathes, allow her to focus on how her body moves and feels when performing the yoga poses or walking. This allows children to experience the sensations of movement, distracting them from negative thoughts.
Mindfulness apps: There are several fun and safe apps for children who are interested in mindfulness. For example, Mindful-app is free and has several features to guide children in mindful meditation. This includes meditating with nature sounds, sleep meditation, scripted meditations and more. There are many free apps for children to practice mindfulness, so find the one that fits your child’s needs.
Many parents might be wondering how the age of their child will affect the meditation process. “The most important thing is to tailor the child’s practice to the age of their attention span,” said Dehra Harris, MD, Washington University pediatric psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “A good rule to go by is that they have a minute of attention for every year of their age — so 5-year-olds can really only practice mindfulness five minutes at a time. As the child gets older and continues to practice mindfulness, it will become easier for her to concentrate for longer periods of time.”
For more resources about mindfulness, contact the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center or call 314-454-KIDS (5437). The Family Resource Center is a free service for the community and is 100 percent funded by the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation.
For over 130 years, Children's Hospital and its Washington University School of Medicine physician partners have remained a resource for pediatric health and wellness for the St. Louis region and beyond.
They provide care in every pediatric specialty — from fetal care through adolescence. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Louis Children's Hospital in all 10 specialties, the only children's hospital in Missouri to earn this distinction. Their Level One Pediatric Trauma Center is nationally verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the highest national recognition possible.
Call 314-454-KIDS (5437) to find a pediatrician or pediatric specialist, or to register for a class or event. Learn more at StLouisChildrens.org, member BJC Healthcare.