Mindfulness is an amazing skill to teach children. It is the practice of bringing an attitude that is calm and accepting of the moment you are in, no matter what you are facing. Being mindful means children can learn to better regulate their emotions and deal with stressful situations without being overwhelmed. It also allows them to be present in the moment, not distracted, leading to better happiness overall.
Whilst your child is a baby, the best way to encourage mindfulness is to lead by example. You can do this by ensuring you are free from distraction whilst spending time with your child, giving them and the moment you share your full attention. The easiest way to do this can simply be making eye contact whilst you hold your baby.
Another tip is to avoid using your smartphone around your children, as smartphones are one of the most distracting features of daily life. By not scrolling through social media or texting someone, you give your child yourself wholly, and teach them to stay in the present moment.
Staying calm, even in stressful situations, is really important. If you find yourself upset or out of touch with the present moment for whatever reason, you can use the acronym S.T.O.P. :
Stop. Pause what you are doing for a moment.
Take a breath. Focus on your breathing; it can help ground you.
Observe. Take stock of what is happening; acknowledge it.
Proceed. Continue after your stop, hopefully feeling better.
Of course, mindfulness is very difficult and it’s impossible to constantly stay calm and quiet. However, regulating your emotions particularly so they don’t impact others is a really important and really useful skill, particularly with impressionable babies and toddlers around.
When it comes to toddlers, they can begin to practice mindfulness themselves. There are a lot of ways to teach and encourage this, particularly with activities you choose to do together. For example, avoiding TV in favour of reading together, making art, or simply chatting whilst exploring somewhere new. All of this encourages your child to enjoy the moment.
You can also start to teach toddlers breathing exercises. These are one of the best ways to help your child calm down and take a moment, without there being too many steps. When your child focusses on their breathing, they are focussing on the present, and will feel more grounded for it.
Finally, when talking about emotions, it is important to help your child deal with them. Talking through their feelings, even when you don’t understand, is really important. Remain understanding, patient, and most of all forgiving. By allowing your child to express emotions in a healthier way, even after an outburst, they learn that they can talk to you when they get overwhelmed instead of acting out.
Mindfulness is a really good skill, both for you and your child. It can be difficult to maintain habits, but it should be used on a daily basis if possible instead of only in times of high stress.