Intro to Mindfulness for Kids & Teens
Originally Published at Laurellife.com on August 20th, 2022
The new school year often presents new ways to help our students grow. In particular, one concept worth integrating into our day-to-day routines is mindfulness. However, as many of our students might be unfamiliar with it, starting with an introduction to mindfulness may be greatly influential in finding success throughout the year.
Defining Mindfulness, Dispelling Myths First, we must define mindfulness. Depending on the age group, I prefer to start with asking the students to list words that come to mind when they hear mindfulness. Common responses include: meditation, yoga, sitting still, and making your brain quiet. To the best of my ability, I then acknowledge each of the responses as true and dispel any myths. For example, the last response, making your brain quiet, can be a discouraging belief. While mindfulness can be that, it certainly has many more facets (we will discuss different, more specific mindfulness practices in a future article). From there, I go over a few different definitions of mindfulness, including my own as well as some from famous authors and thinkers.
My definition of mindfulness for teens, “A practice towards being fully present in the moment.”
My definition of mindfulness for kids, “What’s happening right now? That’s mindfulness.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.”
Pema Chödrön, “…isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better.It’s about befriending who we are already.”
Amit Ray, “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
It's a Practice Anytime I do a beginner lesson on mindfulness, I emphasis that it is a practice. Like playing a sport, an instrument, or preparing to give a speech, mindfulness requires repetition for improvement. If you attempted to play an instrument for the first time today, would it sound any good? Would you be able to master it by tomorrow? Highly unlikely. Thus, practice is pivotal.
Benefits Another key to introducing mindfulness is talking about its benefits. Both kids and teens are likely to wonder “why are we doing this?” So, knowing what motivates our students, and what is beneficial for them, can be vital in cultivating their interest in mindfulness. Further, this is another point in which I explore what they think and what possible benefits come to mind for them. I then point out that research has found the following benefits, among others (see references below):
Increased immune system
Increase positive emotions
Physically changes the brain
Helps improve sleep
Decrease in behavior concerns