By Jordyn Bryant, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.
Having stress or anxiety as a child can be hard. Children often hear, “You are too young to have stress” or other statements that dismiss their feelings.
Recognizing that children can have negative emotions regarding what seems “small” or “trivial” to adults can help validate the child’s feelings so they can begin to cope. By using coping mechanisms, kids are able to regulate their emotions and feelings more quickly.
One healthy coping mechanism is mindfulness. According to the website understood.org, practicing mindfulness can ease feelings of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is the practice of staying in the moment, which helps children and adults identify how they are feeling right then and how they can adjust to a more neutral thought or feeling. Often when we are thinking of something, we tend to think of how it played out in the past or how it can play out in the future. When we stay in the moment, we can focus on what can help now instead of what hurt us in the past or what might go wrong in the future.
A big part of mindfulness is focusing on your breathing. When your thoughts begin to go elsewhere, you can focus on how your breathing feels to bring you back into the present. When children learn this, they are better able to practice self-control and strengthen their resiliency. According to the website mindful.org, studies show that the benefits of mindfulness for children are:
- Increased focus
- Improved academic performance
- Decreased levels of stress
Improving on these things can improve a child’s confidence, emotional regulation, and overall mental health and well-being.
As adults, the more we practice mindfulness ourselves, the more we can help our children learn. It is important to recognize the feelings in our children and ourselves. Recognizing that having feelings is okay – even the ones that do not feel so good – is a way to have a healthy emotional balance. Being mentally and emotionally healthy can create positive changes in life, including our physical health, creating stronger families, and having positive social skills. You can practice being mindful in everyday life even when you do not have time for 20-30 minutes of breathing and yoga. Some examples are:
- Practicing gratitude
- Checking in with your body
- Utilizing your five senses
- Focusing on your breathing
- Practicing active listening.
Practicing mindfulness and helping children practice mindfulness sets us up for success in different aspects of life. You will be amazed to recognize the changes that come with being in the “here and now” versus thinking about the unknowns and the “should haves.”