Mindfulness: why it’s good for children, teenagers and parents
Mindfulness is focusing your complete attention on what’s happening right now. It’s also letting your thoughts and worries come and go without judgment.
When you practise mindfulness, you’ll feel generally calmer, more focused and better able to concentrate. And in moments of stress, you’ll be able to pause, relax, see things more clearly and make better decisions.
Overall, mindfulness can reduce stress and boost your wellbeing.
When you encourage children to be mindful, it can help them develop skills to deal with the stress of study, work and play as they get older.
What you need for a mindfulness activity
For the mindfulness of sounds exercise below, you need about 5 minutes. It’s also best to be somewhere calm and quiet.
Many people like being guided through mindfulness activities, especially to start with. This can make it easier to focus on the moment. If you think this would work for you, you could make a recording of yourself saying the steps below. It works best if you speak softly and slowly, pausing between each step.
How to do a mindfulness of sounds activity
This mindfulness activity focuses on sounds.
Start with breathing
- Make yourself comfortable. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, sit on the floor with your back against the wall, or lie down. If it feels comfortable, gently close your eyes. Take a few moments to slowly focus your mind on your breathing.
- Notice the air going in and out.
- Notice the feeling of your chest and tummy rising and falling as you breathe in and out. Don’t force your breathing – just notice that you breathe.
- Notice the air moving in and out through your nose. Notice how it’s slightly colder when it goes in and warmer when it comes out.
- Listen closely to any sounds you can hear in the room or close by if you’re outside.
- Listen past the obvious sounds to the small sounds. You might be able to hear the buzz of a light, the ticking of a clock or your own breathing or heartbeat.
- Listen to any sounds outside the room or further away – traffic, voices, birds or dogs.
- Try to hear the quietest sound you can hear.
- Keep your attention on your hearing for a few more moments.
From time to time your attention will wander as you get caught up in your thoughts. When this happens just notice what has distracted you and gently bring your mind back to what you can hear.
Come back to your body
- When you’re ready, gently bring your mind back to your body where you’re sitting or lying, and become aware of your surroundings.
- Open your eyes and adjust to the light.
Options for mindfulness activities
You can use other physical experiences to do mindfulness exercises. For example:
- Mindfulness of breathing exercise: in this exercise you focus on the air moving in and out through your nose. You notice things like the temperature of the air going into and out of your body, the rise and fall of your chest and shoulders, the expansion and contraction of your stomach, and so on.
- Mindfulness of sensation exercise: in this exercise you focus on things like the feeling of your feet flat on the floor, the feel of your clothes, the weight of your hands in your lap, the feel of the air on your face and the hair on your head, and so on.
Remember that you usually begin mindfulness exercises by focusing on your breathing. You end the exercise by gently bringing your attention back to your body and your surroundings.
Adapting mindfulness activities for children at different stages
You can encourage younger children to build mindfulness just by doing what they naturally do. For example:
- Colouring in or drawing something interesting or beautiful like a shell, are great ways to help your child be mindful and focus on what they’re doing right now.
- A listening walk or a noticing nature walk can encourage your child to pause, notice and focus on the sights, sounds and smells around them.
- Listening to music and focusing on the instruments or lyrics is a great way for your child to focus on the present without distraction.
You could also guide younger children or children with disability or autism through the activity above, using the steps as a script.
As your child gets a little older, you might like to do mindfulness exercises together. You could record yourself saying the steps above, and then use the recording as a guide for yourself and your child. Or you could find a mindfulness app that you and your child both like.
Older children and teenagers might like to do mindfulness exercises independently. Your child could use your recording when they’re feeling stressed or want some help to relax. Or your child might like to make their own recording or download a mindfulness app that they think will work for them.