Yesterday I met with our local primary school teachers so share and discuss mindfulness, what it means to us and how we can be more mindful on a daily basis with a view to bringing mindfulness sessions into the school.
Mindfulness in general is best experienced rather than talked about. It is something we “are” rather than do. For children it is all about how the adults in their life models it for them. Children will tune in to our behaviour, indeed model them –because this is how we learn isn’t it?
Children of course, are naturally mindful in the way that they live, very much in the present moment and are not so concerned about the past or indeed the future. The most important thing we can do is not squash the natural quality of openness and presence but re-inforce it and invite it to continue to develop.
There is solid and growing scientific evidence that mindfulness is indeed valuable to school age children. Why do you think that is?
If we think about the endless list of benefits that mindfulness brings then I’m sure at the end of you reading this you’ll be agreeing, yes – bring more mindfulness into schools! (and indeed at home!)
Learning how to practice mindfulness and then bringing all aspects of the experience into your life is like learning how to play a musical instrument or indeed tune it! Musicians, orchestras and bands spend time tuning their instruments as well as practising their skills – they tune into each-other. Indeed this is no difference to how we can spend time tuning into each-other and tuning into ourselves.
What could be more important than learning and practicing how to pay attention, how to be more present and how to be so much more relaxed and comfortable in your own skin? And how about, turning down the noise and appreciating who you are right now? With our children, what could be more important than learning and practising to be kinder to themselves and to others?
For parents and teachers, what could be more important than just being still in that space and moment of time when engaging with our little and big ones to mindfully listen, mindfully observe, mindfully choose our words and support them on a curious and non-judgmental journey?
How about when we’re in that moment with children demonstrating real-time, in-time compassion, tuning into the child’s experience of what is going on right now?
A young 7 year old boy shared with me his experience at school one day. He was excited about his new class and his new teacher. The PE session was about to begin and the young boy inquisitively asked of his teacher “it’s a lovely sunny day outside, why are we having PE inside?”
How would you respond to this?
The reply was something like this, “it’s none of your business young man”
Now I imagine the positive intention (at the outset) of the teacher was to get everyone into line, maybe organise her class. Perhaps her thoughts were “I don’t need to explain to this child” – I don’t know. What I can share with you is that in THAT moment, this little boys’ butterfly of excitement had been squashed. In his words he “felt hurt that he’d asked a question”, “he didn’t want to ask any more questions…”
And the little boy had decided to hide his butterfly of excitement and never share it again with his teacher.
A small but fine example of how in that moment, words were not mindfully chosen, neither was the reaction or behaviour! Indeed the impact this one small space in time had on this little boy was profound.
Kids are curious and inquisitive by nature. They are keen to learn new things, tend to live in the moment and can be extremely attentive. But like many of us grown-ups, kids are often too busy. They’re tired, easily distracted and restless. Busy minds and lifestyles effect the way we feel, the way we behave and at times leads to stress, anxiety, sleepless nights and overthinking of problems that just aren’t there! Many children do too much and especially in our 21st century world of unlimited things to do, screens (phones, gaming) and our endless box of materialistic things to fill the gap, children have little time to “just be”.
We know our kids grow up fast. There are a million and one balls to juggle on every level – socially, emotionally, at school and at home. Throw this into the mixing pot all of their learning, things to do, things to memorize, soon the lid on the pot explodes. What do we do then? They seem to be switched on all of the time but where is the pause button?
Kids (and adults) who practice mindful presence and awareness will learn to pause for a moment, catch their breath, and find a sense of what they need at this moment in time. It doesn’t mean to say the tasks and things-to- do go away – but what they can do is allow themselves to come out of auto-drive mode and take their time to bring friendly attention to who they are; their thoughts; their intention; their kindness to self – indeed to everything they do. They learn and nurture how to create space in their minds in that moment which allows them to free up any unwanted thoughts and feelings that they choose to let go. Of course, the opposite to this is their ability to accept empowering thoughts and beliefs of who they are, how they want to be right now and check in with themselves. It’s a powerful personal inner connection that cultivates attention, patience, trust and acceptance of who they are right now.
The key to adapting mindfulness skills with kids is keeping it simple! It is about having fun, using language they understand, connecting to their need to move and play!
The benefits and evidence from mindfulness programmes throughout schools for kids in the UK are simply amazing! My own experience of working with kids, families and people at work is simply profound.
So I promised you a list of benefits – here they are! If at the end of reading you’d like to know more about a mindfulness programme for yourself and your family, your school or indeed your place of work we’d love to hear from you.
Priceless benefits list for mindfulness with kids, parents and people at work!
Enhanced ability to regulate their emotions
Focus, pay attention and concentrate
Enhanced ability to be less reactive towards others
Being less aggressive and engaging less in physical and verbal confrontation.
Improvements in peer & family relationships
Enjoy life more, demonstrating enhanced gratitude, happiness, optimism and quality of life
Increased social skills
Increased memory, planning & organisation
Increased self esteem
Increased quality of sleep
Increased sense of calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance
Less anger management issues
Decreased hyper-activity (labels to behaviour e.g ADHD) and impulsivity
More open to express thoughts and feelings
More open and accepting with feedback
More confident to explore, question with curiosity and know more
Increased ability to listen and tune in to others
Be able to sit still in the moment for longer
More laughter, more smiles
More tactile – heightened awareness of own sensory preferences
Increased calmness and high levels of awareness of others
Increased rapport/relationship building
Ability to let go and forgive
Ability to appreciate own strengths and abilities
I honestly don’t think there is anyone who wouldn’t benefit from any of these – do you?
Get in touch with Hayley Phipps
Mindfulness Coach, Cognitive Behavioural Coach, NLP Practitioner, Psycho-dynamic counsellor, Personal Performance Coach, ILM teacher