Updated: Aug 26, 2021
With mental health becoming an increasing focus among parents during the pandemic, you may wonder how you can teach your children useful and practical mental health habits.
We're going to introduce to you a concept called mindfulness. Mindfulness is sometimes mistaken as meditation, even though mindfulness originates from meditation principles, we often do not need to meditate in order to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is in fact a non-religious practice that helps strengthen our mind, just like how we do physical exercise to strengthen our body.
So what is Mindfulness exactly?
Mindfulness is simply about paying attention to whatever you are experiencing in the present moment. It could be what you are seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, thinking, and feeling. Mindfulness practice is also about accepting our experience without labeling it, i.e., without thinking that the experience was “good” or “bad” / “right” or “wrong”. For example, if we apply mindfulness to times when we fall down on our knees, we can mindfully attend to the sharp sensation on our knees instead of thinking about how "unlucky" we are or how "bad" this experience is.
How is Mindfulness helpful for children or adolescents?
Several studies have shown positive psychological benefits for children and adolescents when they practice mindfulness. The studies found that children and adolescents who practiced mindfulness regularly have the following benefits:
Have better attention
Have better-coping mechanisms with anger
Generally display fewer symptoms of anxiety
How is Mindfulness helpful for children or adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
In children or adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), there was a study that showed a reduction in anger and aggression when the mindfulness strategy was used, for example, when a child displayed anger, the therapist would shift their attention to the soles of their feet when they were feeling angry.
This practice was particularly helpful for children or adolescents who had little awareness of their bodily symptoms. In such cases, it was hard for them to detect that they were getting angry and apply effective anger management strategies in time before the anger escalated further. Hence, mindfulness practice became helpful in developing this sense of awareness of their bodily state.
Mindfulness activities can be simple and can be practiced by young children as well, with positive outcomes shown in children as young as 6 years old.