I understand the fear, anxiety, and how heartbreaking it can be to watch your child struggle in school. I know what it’s like to want to wave a wand to make it all go away for them and help them learn without it being such a battle. Having 2 kids of my own with learning disabilities (who are now grown), I remember being in the trenches of trying to help them feel good about school – and help myself deal with the stress and the anxiety of the situations that unfolded throughout their school years.
As a teacher who specialized in learning disabilities for over 20 years, I learned to implement an integrated, multi-sensory approach in my classrooms that I still use today with my online tutoring programs.
Without a doubt, the one tactic that I have found to be the most useful and successful in helping kids achieve more success in school and in their lives is the concept of mindfulness. By teaching my students how to practice mindfulness, they learn how to decrease their anxiety and become happier. Mindfulness is a tool that gives kids a gentle, accepting attitude to the present moment and helps them process difficult emotions.
As a parent, one of the best ways you can help your child find more success in school is to start practicing mindfulness at home.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be simply explained as…noticing what is happening right now. Mindfulness is taking notice of how your body feels and what you see, smell & taste. Maybe you even feel emotions in your body, perhaps through a tightness somewhere, or a good sensation.
Mindfulness is also noticing what your mind is doing and not judging it.
What happens when kids start being mindful?
When kids notice what is happening around them, they focus more deeply, and that attention to their own senses help them improve in many areas of their life.
Mindfulness helps kids calm down when they’re sad, angry, or frustrated.
Mindfulness also helps them deal with tough emotions and improves their over-all level of happiness. It can also help make learning easier by improving focus so school doesn’t seem so hard and boring.
If kids become more aware of what makes them sad, upset, frustrated or afraid, then they can use mindfulness tools to help them take control of their emotions. This is particularly helpful when schoolwork becomes difficult or frustrating.
The science behind mindfulness in children.
The article Mindfulness for Children, published by The New York Times explains that prefrontal circuit connections in our brains develop fastest in children. Mindfulness skills that are controlled in the prefrontal cortex, like focus and cognitive control, can therefore have a particular impact on the development of skills including self-regulation, judgment & patience during childhood.
Another Times article reviewed several studies to back up the positive impact of mindfulness from a science-based perspective. It revealed: “A 2015 study found that fourth- and fifth-grade students who participated in a four-month meditation program showed improvements in executive functions like cognitive control, working memory, cognitive flexibility — and better math grades.
A study published recently in the journal Mindfulness found similar improvements in mathematics in fifth graders with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And a study of elementary school children in Korea showed that eight weeks of meditation lowered aggression, social anxiety & stress levels.”
With continued mounting evidence on the benefits of mindfulness for children, it’s easy to see why it should play a part in every kid’s daily routine. Think of mindfulness practice in the same way you think of brushing teeth or reading and you will find it’s not that difficult to integrate it into your and your child’s life.
How to start practicing mindfulness with your child.
1. Start with yourself.
The first and best way to start teaching your child how to be mindful is to model mindful behavior yourself. Parent modeling is the best way to teach our kids any habit. When you embody mindfulness into your own way of being, your kids will pick it up and learn from your influence.
If you think about it, a chaotic house, reactive behavior, anger and general discontent in the home environment will not be conducive to a child practicing mindfulness. When you can learn yourself how to respond instead of reacting, use calming tools during conflict and increase your own happiness through mindfulness tools such as meditation, you will then set your environment up for success.
Mindfulness is also a great way to practice self-care, and you will find that your own sense of well-being improves while your stress and anxiety will decrease.
2. Make it a daily practice.
When it comes to being mindful, don’t just “save it” for when there is trouble.
Practice mindfulness in a variety of situations. Kids may not always understand what you are doing when you meditate, but they will mimic you and pick up on the benefits over time.
Also, practicing mindfulness with your kids daily will help increase their ability to turn to it on their own when needed and allow them the benefits of exploring their feelings, sensations & body reactions at any time – not just in stress.
There are lots of fast and easy ways to practice mindfulness, if you are tight on time you only need 2 or 3 minutes a day to keep it consistent.
3. Find a supportive community.
Like anything else you are just learning, it is easier to learn and understand by surrounding yourself with the right people and resources to help you along the way.
Having a friend or another family to practice with can be a great way to help you stay accountable to the process and provide ideas and motivation. There are lots of mindfulness resources online, and I also offer a free mindfulness toolbox for kids and families that you can download to get you started.
It’s never too late.
If you feel like you are behind on the mindfulness trend, don’t worry, you’re not. No matter what ages you or your kids are, or how much they may be struggling in the classroom, mindfulness can be learned at any stage in life with fast and meaningful benefits.
If you’d like to get your family started on practicing mindfulness, I invite you to download my free guide: The Mindfulness Toolbox for Kids and Families