It’s no secret – the habits we learn early in life stay with us through adulthood. Family, friends, teachers, the media and the behaviors they display during our most impressionable years have a hand in the type of adult we become down the road.
Think about what you saw on television as a child or the habits your parents displayed in the home. Do you remember them? Do you often find yourself replicating those behaviors as an adult? Even something as simple as the products we buy in the grocery store or idioms we use in conversation are deeply rooted in what we saw in our earliest years.
In fact, studies show that by the time we reach age nine, we have already set in place many of the habits we will carry into adulthood. Once habits have been established, especially in terms of health and wellness, it can be hard to adjust them later in life. That’s why it’s important to give children plenty of tools early on to improve their mental health and cope with difficult emotions in a productive way.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment. It involves steering one’s attention to the senses and thoughts that naturally occur within and around it without judgment. People often associate mindfulness with the practice of meditation, though the two are not synonymous.
One of the most well-known forms of meditation is mindfulness meditation, but there are plenty of other types such as prayer meditation and exercise meditation. Meditation itself is essentially the act of stopping for a moment and doing something beneficial for yourself. It goes hand-in-hand with judgment-free thinking and awareness.
Stress and Anxiety in Children
Living in this world means dealing with a steady flow of adverse circumstances and learning to overcome them. For a child, difficult emotions can emerge from something as small as feelings of hunger or exhaustion or as impactful and permanent as the loss of a family member.
Regardless of the magnitude of the problem at hand, children will need the tools to manage their emotions and reactions when they come to be. Adversity is unpredictable, but by becoming familiar with mindfulness meditation at an early age, children can reduce stress, form appropriate responses and discover happiness in the chaos.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
People of all ages praise mindfulness for overall improvement in mental and physical wellness. Regular practice helps us adopt an attitude of acceptance and positivity by allowing us time to think through thoughts and feelings that reside in the back of our minds.
The most beneficial and immediate benefit of pausing for a moment is decreased stress levels. As thoughts naturally arise while mindfulness is in practice, people have a chance to come to peace with circumstances at hand. This also gives individuals an opportunity to think through solutions and move confidently toward a resolution.
Similarly to stress reduction, mindfulness can help individuals build and sharpen relationships throughout life. It teaches them to process their emotions before, during and after conflict and helps them react and communicate in a more positive way. Schools that encourage mindful meditation have seen decreased amounts of bullying and strengthened relationships between students and their peers.
In a world filled with distractions, it is difficult for people of all ages to stay focused. Preschool-aged children especially are in a developmental stage where they are taking in everything around them and learning to process what they see and hear at all times. However, focus is one of the most important skills for a child to learn early on and will benefit them in many areas of their life – but most notably in academia.
With improved mental health comes improved physical health. Stress reduction alone can lead to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, lower blood pressure, improved sleep and alleviated gastrointestinal illnesses. Though most of these complications may arise later in life, children who practice mindfulness meditation now may be less likely to experience these health problems down the road.
Bringing Mindfulness Home
Taking time to practice mindfulness at home will help you set an example for your child, reinforcing what they are taught in class and bringing their practice full circle. Luckily, there are plenty of short and easy meditations available to busy families that will have a lasting impact on children in the home.
Simple meditation is one technique that can be executed several times throughout the day. Take ten seconds to close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling deeply and focusing on one color or idea – honing in on the visualization of it.
When the entire family has made it home from work and school, try an end-of-day reset meditation together. Set aside a moment to first focus in on the parts of your day that caused tension or stress while inhaling deeply. On an exhale, free yourself from those thoughts by letting them go.
Talk through the process with children so that they clearly understand what to do, or at least have an idea. Over time, the children may develop the habit of pausing on their own.
Mindfulness meditation is one piece of your child’s developmental puzzle that can have a huge impact on their quality of life. From their first day of preschool through high school graduation, these tools will prove valuable in all types of adversity. With regular practice, mindfulness meditation will leave your child feeling confident, focused and prepared to take on anything life throws at them.
Raising Arizona Preschool
At Raising Arizona Preschool, we practice mindfulness throughout the day with all of our students. Using unique and fun activities, we teach the children to focus and build up their ability to emotionally regulate themselves.
Each child in our school is assigned a breathing buddy that makes mindfulness fun for preschoolers. We begin each day with a mindful morning exercise as children come into the school. Soon, and soon we are going to implement a practice where the parents do a “mindful morning” with their child when they drop off.
Our classrooms are structured so that children can do mindful activities throughout the day both with a group and on their own. Children are told throughout life that they must learn to focus and concentrate. However, it is rare for children to be truly taught how to do this. Here in our classrooms we guide children to learn these abilities to handle any task they have, setting them up for a future of success.
Focus and concentration are vital to all learning processes. Implementing a daily mindfulness practice is best proven way to build up a child’s ability to focus and concentrate. And that is why each day we see children thriving in our preschool with this newly established habit.