What is mindfulness for children and teens?
Mindfulness for children and young teens is a beautiful way to support positive mental health. There are many layers to mindfulness, and initially evidence-based practices can support children to calm their minds and be in the ‘here and now’ rather than the past or future. We can do this using anchors such as the breath, our senses or movement. Learning to use the breath to find calm is a wonderful life skill.
Developing these skills, mindfulness is also about supporting children to understand their big emotions (such as anxiety) and all the feelings, body sensations, and sticky, whirling thoughts that accompany them. By noticing, naming and understanding what is happening when a big emotion visits, we can learn ways to look after ourselves, feel safer and more in control, find some calm and come back to the moment. Self-regulation of emotions is another vital life skill.
We can then begin to cultivate positive emotions, such as gratitude, kindness for ourselves and others, and happiness.
We might use our breath, our senses, yoga and movement, music, art, writing, games, stories, visualisations, meditations and relaxation to be mindful. All with kindness for ourselves and knowing that we are not alone. Our kits of self-care can be bursting with personalised ideas to use in moments of difficulty and to maintain good mental health in the long term.
Benefits of mindfulness
Amazingly mindfulness can change our brains over time (known as neuroplasticity) helping us to become calmer, happier and more focused. Mindfulness has been shown to help
- improve sleep
- improve concentration
- support academic achievement
- lower stress and anxiety
- increase positive mood
- improve ability to self-regulate emotions