How to introduce Mindfulness to Children – part 1

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” ― Ann Landers

I have been practicing Mindfulness for a while now and it has become more and more a core part of both my daily life as well as how I am trying to live my life in terms of behaviour and regard for others. People have noticed the change and when I share with them the journey I am on and still travelling, they can sometimes be sceptical, but still recognise the benefits.I was out walking with a friend and her daughter the other day and she mentioned that the local primary school was going to have a “Mindfulness Day” to introduce the concepts of mindfulness to the teaching staff. The reason being to share the concepts and ideas with the staff and to get them to then use some of the techniques with the children. The reason, is that they have a behaviour issue in the school and this is one of the things they want to try to help manage the levels of aggression amongst the children. Aggression in 6 to 11 years olds? Yes. Including bullying, name calling and throwing things about.

I was asked “How would you do this?” which sparked a lively discussion. The first point is this…. You can not do mindfulness to people!

My concern was…. unless the teachers themselves are practicing mindfulness, how on earth are they expected to be able to teach it, or share the benefits with the pupils. Its like asking a maths teacher to teach art or visa versa.

The second point, I pointed out was that the idea of being able to share mindfulness practices in one day is possible – I have attended a one day taster course before as a mindfulness practitioner to help the programme leader by sharing best practices – but to really start on the journey, you have to either do the 8 week MBSR [Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction] programme, or something similar. You then have to start to practice it as often as you can, ideally for at least 15-30 minutes every day.

People come to mindfulness through many different routes; some through formal training; some through group work; some through activities at their work place or even, as in my case, following the Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world book written by Professor Mark Williams and Doctor Danny Penman. This is the same 8-week programme that is run at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre [run by Professor Williams and the programme that Ruby Wax did].

Anyway, back to the walk and discussion. Our friend’s ten-year-old daughter, Alice, piped up and asked “What is Mindfulness?”. I thought for a moment and answered with “Its just being aware; aware of your thoughts, feelings, how your body is feeling, and anything that is happening around us and to us right now.” I think she understood, but was not too sure.Trying to get children to understand theoretical concepts is always hard. It is far easier to get them to try things. To experience instead. So, I suggested a few ways to be able to get the children to experience Mindfulness. Children respond better to some of the fundamental senses – movement, sight, sound, taste and touch. Which is key to getting them engaged.

In my next post, I’ll share the examples we talked about.

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