Your Kids Don't Have To Meditate to Be Mindful!
You can teach your children to be more mindful without ever having to teach them to meditate!
Mindfulness is not synonymous with meditation. The terms meditation and mindfulness often seem to be used as if they are the same, but they are not. It is important to know the similarities and differences between the the two, especially when practicing yoga and mindfulness with your children and teenagers. It gets confusing! One type of meditation is mindfulness meditation, and that is what we think causing the ultimate confusion.
We are going to break it down for you! Let’s take a deeper look at the differences.
Generally seated and time limited (one minute to over an hour)
An intentional practice
Silent or guided
There are a LOT of different kinds of meditation.
The one we think is most confused with mindfulness is called mindfulness meditation, and this is where you focus your attention inward to expand your awareness, open your heart, calm your mind, bring emotional balance or improve concentration.
Other types of meditation include:
Seated Meditation: A person sits quietly focusing on their breath, body, and the present moment, usually seated on a cushion or chair in a relaxed upright position.
Guided Meditation: A guided meditation can be done live with somebody leading you through a mediation or most often a recording that you would listen to. Most often the person guiding you will talk you through the meditation, from setting up (whether seated or laying down) to coming out of the meditation. Your guide might lead you through a visualization or body scan or maybe they will just help to bring your awareness back to your breath.
Mantra Meditation: A mantra is a word or phrase that hold some meaning to you that you repeat during meditation. This can be spoken aloud, whispered, or recited silently in your mind while you meditate. Mantras are both a way of keeping our focus in meditation and also a way of shifting our minds and thought process.
Mala Bead Meditation: This is a practice of meditating with a string of mala beads in your hand. Often used with a mantra, a typical mala necklace is strung with 108 mala beads. Malas are just another tool that can be useful for keeping the mind present and focused while meditating.
Walking Meditation: For our active minds sitting in stillness might be too much for us when we first begin a practice of meditating. Like the practice of yoga, walking can be a moving meditation.
For youth, sitting in silent mindfulness meditation or many of these other kinds of meditation without any foundation in mindfulness or yoga could be uncomfortable and boring. For a child with a trauma history, sitting in silent meditation can even be retraumatizing.
So what is mindfulness, then?
Mindfulness is being aware of your present attention (thoughts, feelings, behaviors, movements).
Mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere and by anyone.
When you are mindful, you are actively involved in the activity with all of your senses and attention rather than a wandering mind. By teaching children to attend to the present and practice being mindful, you are helping them learn a skill that will benefit them for life. When they practice mindfulness, they become more comfortable with the “right now” and this sets a foundation for a meditation practice, too.
Want to begin teaching mindfulness to your children? Sprinkle it into their daily life and make it fun.
Try mindful eating with a Hershey Kiss or another favorite treat! Encourage your young person to use all of their five senses when enjoying their treat. What does it look like? What does it smell like? How does it feel in their hands? What texture is it? How does it smell? And finally, how does it taste? When they are eating their snack, invite them to take slow bites rather than scarfing it down, and see how much more they enjoy it!
Play 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Breathe! Wherever you are with them, have them start to use their senses to pay attention to what is around them. Ask them to:
Name 5 things you see
Name 4 things you hear
Name 3 things you feel physically on your body
Name 2 things you smell
Name 1 good thing about you (or 1 thing you taste, if eating)
And then have them take a few deep, belly breaths to feel more calm and present.
Go on a rainbow walk! Take a walk around the neighborhood or park and see if you can find all the colors of the rainbow. For an added challenge, try to find them in order!
Other ways to practice mindfulness:
Feel the soap bubbles on your hand when you wash them
Listen to a song you like and try to follow one instrument the whole time without getting distracted
Take a few moments of silence and try to hear the furthest sound away from you
Try to find something you’ve never seen before on a walk or drive
There are TONS of ways to practice mindfulness with your children and teens. And mindfulness can be so fun! Once you get them interested in mindfulness, it is easier to lay a foundation for meditation. These tools can also be used to help them calm down when they are stressed, especially 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Breathe!
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