So you’d like to share mindfulness practice with children, but aren’t sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place!
I’ve been sharing the practice of mindfulness with children and young people - in family homes, clubs, sanghas, schools and colleges - for many years. I LOVE helping children learn how to nourish their happiness and take good care of their suffering. I’ve seen the changes that happen with a regular mindfulness practice for children - reduction in anxiety, better ability to rest and play, being less hard on themselves and knowing how to take care of their precious heart.
Here you’ll find a series of practices to share with children. Before we dive in, here are three things to consider:
a) children don’t do what you say; they do what you do
Your biggest gift is your presence. If you want children to experience the feeling of calm, or joy, or self-compassion - that is the exact presence that you need to offer them. We begin by embodying the practice for ourselves. Teaching mindfulness is really sharing your practice, so allow yourself a little time for yourself first. If you’ve experienced how calming / boring / relaxing / frustrating a practice can be, you’ll be better able to accept that fully when a child feels it.
“But I can’t wait!”
If you simply have to start, then let yourself learn alongside the children. Use video resources, take turns reading things out, and explore the practice together. Share what you liked and be honest about what was difficult for you. The single biggest influence for a child is seeing a grown-up learn this practice with them.
b) let go of an outcome
We can be a little fundamentalist about mindfulness practice: “you WILL focus and relax!”
When we practice with children, we meet them exactly where they are. Some young people will find it possible to focus, or to be kind. And for some, it’s not yet possible. we put our energy into the conditions under which someone may feel kind. Imagine that kindness is a seed: we try to provide all that it needs to flourish: warmth, care, nutrition, soft rain. We create a kind, loving, accepting space for people, and then we allow their seeds to germinate in its own time. So please don’t worry if a child doesn’t seem to ‘get it’. You are nourishing their seeds, and that is the offering of this practice. Whether the seed sprouts in a month or ten years - you’ve done your part.
c) be super bendy-stretchy flexible
Children flourish when they feel safe, have appropriate space, and are actively interested in what’s going on. If you approach mindfulness as a set, inflexible curriculum, you’ll miss some of the possibilities for joyful togetherness.
There are many factors to consider: size and age range of groups, time of day, venue and interests - if the children love movement or arts & crafts, songs or stories. The practices that are shared here can all be adapted to beef up an arty element, create opportunities for drama, take active care of the planet or a community, or encourage teamwork. Let yourself to explore along with the children - what is a good fit for this moment? There’ll be times when we offer a light, fun energy, and times when we offer a soothing practice. And allow the session to unfold naturally. Sometimes, a practice takes three times longer than expected! Sometimes a child asks to do Weather again, so they can see what’s changed from their earlier stormy moment. That’s fine. The purpose of practicing together is to give children the space to be kind and to care for themselves. Once they are present, and you are present, then it’s all perfect.
Now let’s dive in!!