Mindfulness for Children (Simon and Schuster, 2018) by Tracy L. Daniel is a guide for explaining and practicing the art of being present and the positive benefits for children learning to be mindful. Learning mindfulness enables children to deal with their emotions in a balanced healthy way. Daniel explains the science of mindfulness along with strategies and practices easy for teaching children that are simple, inexpensive, and not time-consuming.
What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness for Children?
There are myriad ways that mindfulness can improve anyone's overall well-being. But what are some benefits specific to children's daily lives? First, mindfulness activities are great for kids because they:
- Are easy to introduce.
- Take little time to implement.
- Are inexpensive.
- Can be done anytime and anywhere. (The mindfulness strategies in this book are perfect for home, school, and public places.)
- Are fun! Incorporating fun enhances the learning process and helps kids learn the skill faster.
Beyond these logistics, mindfulness offers countless benefits for kids' bodies and minds. Let's look more in depth at some of the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness in children.
Executive function is a term that encompasses a range of skills — working memory, perspective-taking, decision-making, emotional regulation, problem- solving, planning, and impulse control. It provides the foundation for all educational and social activities. When children are under stress, it is harder for them to access executive functioning skills to make wise decisions. If the stress they experience is chronic, executive function can be more seriously impaired, leading to problems with learning, memory impairment, and behavior issues.
Science has proved that mindfulness practice can strengthen executive functioning. That's because repeated mindfulness practice actually builds neural pathways in the brain, and these create habits and automatic responses. A consistent mindfulness practice changes neural pathways to neural superhighways, making executive functioning more accessible to children in times of stress. For example, say that a classmate takes a toy from your child. Instead of yelling and grabbing it back (which might be prompted by an old neural pathway), your child may instead automatically refer to a mindfulness practice and take deep breaths before asking if they can have back the toy that they were using.
Here are some of the recognized benefits that mindfulness can provide for your child's executive functioning:
- Improves working memory (temporary storage and managing of information to carry out cognitive tasks)
- Reduces impulsivity
- Promotes planning and organization skills
- Develops ability to initiate and monitor one's own actions
- Encourages cognitive flexibility (considering other points of view)
- Builds emotional intelligence (the ability to notice and manage one's own emotions)
- Enhances skills that lead to thoughtful decision-making
Simple mindfulness strategies like the ones in this book can provide children with tools to assist them in counteracting any stress, distractions, and anxiety they encounter in their daily lives. Numerous studies have even demonstrated that children with a variety of conditions — such as depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and eating disorders — benefit from practicing mindfulness. Science has shown that well-conducted mindfulness practices can reduce the symptoms of these conditions and help children be calm, resilient, and happy.
Here are some of the recognized benefits that mindfulness can provide for your child's mental health:
- Reduces anxiety and stress
- Improves attention and focus
- Decreases negative self-belief
- Enhances happiness
- Eases symptoms of depression
- Helps overcome somatic symptoms (physical symptoms caused by psychological problems)
- Stimulates mindful self- awareness
- Improves social and emotional skills
- Develops the ability to manage difficult emotions
- Decreases hyperactivity and aggression
- Improves behavior regulation
- Reduces reactivity and encourages reflection
- Improves relaxation and calmness
- Relieves fears and feelings of helplessness
- Balances high and low energy levels
Always talk to your child's healthcare providers about the most effective way to manage his or her specific conditions.
Mindfulness also has beneficial effects on overall well-being in children. Science has shown that just ten minutes a day of mindfulness practice can produce an impact on children's well-being fairly quickly. Every child is different — kids will pick up new skills with each activity, and within a few months they'l have a complete toolbox that they can access in difficult times.
Here are some of the recognized benefits that mindfulness can provide for your child's well-being:
- Improves self-esteem
- Supports attainment of personal goals
- Enhances empathy, optimism, persistence, and resiliency
- Promotes development of social relationships
- Creates self-connection and self-awareness
- Expands connection with nature
A consistent practice with your child will cultivate positive life skills, such as adaptability, kindness, and gratitude.
Mindfulness can even play a role in the development of cognitive and academic skills. The improvements in academic ability and cognitive thinking are linked to the enrichment of executive functioning skills. Mindfulness helps children focus on the skills needed to initiate an assignment, organize their work, remember the steps required to finish their tasks, and complete their project. When children are mindful they are able to prioritize, stick with difficult problems, avoid distractions, and not become frustrated.
Here's how mindfulness can benefit your child's learning. Mindfulness:
- Expands metacognition (essentially, thinking about thinking).
- Improves academic performance.
- Eases test anxiety.
- Enhances creativity.
- Leads to a more effective utilization of knowledge.
- Enriches reasoning skills and clarity.
- Improves posture, which assists with fine motor tasks, such as writing.
- Promotes better work habits and cooperation.
- Increases school attendance rate.
A lot of factors impact academic achievement, but mindfulness practice is likely to offer children some go-to techniques that can apply to the way they approach work throughout their lives.
Research has shown that mindfulness can help children stay healthy and make better health-related decisions. Mindfulness around eating and nutritional choices can especially impact a child's physical health, now and later as an adult.
When it comes to your child's health, studies show that mindfulness:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves digestion and elimination
- Strengthens the immune system
- Promotes better sleep
- Helps chronic illness
- Increases body awareness and motor planning
- Enhances sensory integration
- Reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol
More from Mindfulness for Children:
Excerpted from Mindfulness for Children: 150+ Mindfulness Activities for Happier, Healthier, Stress-Free Kids by Dr. Tracy L. Daniel, Ph.D. Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Also available at Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Interior illustration by Nicola Dos Santos.