Children and teenagers are constantly exposed to lots of stimuli and pressure, especially during their time at school.
At this moment of lockdown, in particular, they spend more time at home and learning online. In addition to that, they are facing the uncertainty of these turbulent times. They can be challenged in a creative and stimulating way to embrace Mindfulness and feel happier.
I once was at a comedy show. I was already studying about Mindfulness. The comedian interacted with me and, as I mentioned Mindfulness, he started joking in a light-hearted manner. He asked me straight away if I was the strange teacher “imposing” children to stay silent while listening to some sounds.
I realised afterwards, when covering the specific section in my course which I am going to share.
Here are some suggestions for both a school and a family environment I would like to share:
- Practicing some Mindfulness at the beginning or at the end of a lesson. Children and teenagers store a lot of information and they very rarely manage to have their breaks. In addition to that, they have a lot of homework to do, prepare some work on projects, etc… Their concentration span can be quite short. A few moments of Mindfulness can support them cope with the ebb and flow of their emotions, refocus their attention in an effective manner.
To start with, small children can keep their eyes closed or open and be asked to start feeling the pace of their natural breathing process. They can do this with a toy on their belly and notice the rising and falling of it. On the other hand, older ones can have a 3 minute breathing space meditation ritual (which I expand on in a previous post blog) It is beneficial for them to smile as well and be guided on recited the mantra “Breathing in I am calm, Breathing out I smile”.
This way they can become aware and develop consciousness.
- Lessons or other moments in the day can also be interrupted for a “notice the mind” activity, just to run a quick “attention check”.
Some questions can be asked over this time, such as:
“Where is your mind wandering right now?” “Are you here?” “Where did the attention go at that particular moment?”
It can also be a time of sharing and a chance for a short discussion.
It is key to clarify that it is normal for the mind to wander. The beneficial part is to start to understand about the mind, notice what it does to then gently and firmly learn to bring it back. It is fine to let children and teens have their mind scattering. However some “attention control” can be practiced. It is a valuable skill they can learn.
- Some body scan (10 min exercise)
Children lie on a blanket or a yoga mat and close their eyes, if they feel comfortable to do so.
They can be guided by some questions, such as “How does this part of the body feel? “Are you tense or relaxed right now?” ”What are your sensations in this area of the body?”
This can be done starting from the toes to the head and in case of any tension in some key areas, it can be beneficial to ease up any of that, or any pain while exhaling.
- Practicing Mindfulness by listening to some sounds around them can be very effective (a musical instrument, some chimes or a bell they can focus on the sound until it stops. It is calming and an incredibly powerful way for them to learn to concentrate and become more perceptive of their surroundings.
As an option, they can raise their hand when they do not hear the sound anymore. After that, they can remain quiet for a minute and notice other sounds around them (this reminds me of the comedian’s joke). As a follow up it might be a good idea for children to be seated in a circle and ask each one to share about the sounds they heard. It is a fun activity and stimulates them to enhance their connection with others and most importantly, live fully in the present, develop their sensitivity and perceptions.
- In order to apply some mindful eating it could be a good idea to work with a snack (a raisin, for instance). Chocolate could be an alternative, too. They can really pay attention as they savour their food and relish in the present moment. Any piece of fruit or food will be fine for this activity and it is important to take into consideration any allergies.
First, contemplate the food (“What does it look like? Is it rough? Smooth? What do you associate this with?”
After the first bite these are some powerful questions: “Can you describe its taste?” “What sensations can you feel in your mouth or on your tongue?” “Did you notice any particular sounds while eating it?” “Can you wait a minute before swallowing it and when you do, can you describe how it feels?” This can be enjoyed as food meditation during a lunch break.
- The “perfume garden” is also a popular Mindfulness practice for children. In this exercise they are given a piece of fresh orange peel. Some lavender, rosemary or any herb. As they close their eyes they breathe in the scent and the smell becomes the centre of the attention. It works well to relieve anxiety, as well.