mindfulness & meditation for children

[Mindfulness & Meditation] What Parents Must Know

by mievee @ mummyshomeschool.com on April 5, 2017

For years, my children and I have been practising some forms of meditation in a science-based non-religious way. Recent scientific studies are confirming the benefits, something that all parents and teachers must know.

Mindfulness vs Meditation

To clear things up, this is a brief explanation of mindfulness and meditation, which are different:

  • Mindfulness: an awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally — Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
  • Meditation: a mind-body method. This category includes interventions that employ a variety of techniques designed to facilitate the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms. In meditation, a person learns to focus attention. Some forms of meditation instruct the student to become mindful of thoughts, feelings, and sensations and to observe them in a nonjudgmental way. — The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

In short, there are many techniques for meditation and mindfulness is one of them. That is, mindfulness is a subset of meditation.

What are the benefits?

Most relevant to me as a parent are these:

1. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density

The results in Hölzel et al.’s research (2011) suggest that participation in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme is associated with “changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking”.

Other studies show that:

  • the amygdala (responsible for fight-or-flight response) is less activated
  • the hippocampus (critical to learning and memory) is more active
  • the prefrontal cortex (associated with maturity) is more activated

This means the person could learn and make better behavioural decisions. Better behaviour?!? As a mum to three super-active boys, this IS just what I need.

2. Mindfulness training improves memory and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering

Mrazek et al. (2013) found out that a 2-week mindfulness-training course “is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences”.

Two weeks to improve results in a relaxed way? Yes, for us please!

3. Mindfulness-based programmes can help improve students’ social-emotional skills and well-being

In a San Francisco school, after implementing a meditation programme over a four-year period, it was reported that “suspensions decreased by 79 percent and attendance and academic performance noticeably increased”.

Summary of areas of reported improvements:

Social-emotional skills:

  • emotional regulation
  • behaviour in school
  • empathy and perspective-taking
  • social skills

Well-being

  • test anxiety
  • stress
  • post-traumatic symptoms
  • depression

(For the full list of references, check out Mindful Schools website here.)

With such a truckload of potential benefits, I’d highly recommend mindfulness and meditation to every parent.

How to practise?

For a start, these are some simple activities you could do with your child:

  • deep breathing and
  • relaxation activities before home lessons / tackling homework / potentially-stressful music practice etc.
  • visualisation
  • Montessori Silence Game
  • playing alpha music for relaxation during work periods
  • encouraging mindfulness during daily activities such as eating
  • gratitude exercise (“Today, I am grateful for … “)

Here’s a recap on the previous article I wrote on the activities:

Even when the day turns out challenging, once I remember to implement some of the above techniques, we can recover rather soon.

And remember to practise the activities yourself so that you reap the benefits too. As a parent, I’d want to be smart, calm, creative and have enough positive energy to last through a long emotionally-challenging day. Meditation every day certainly helps me to achieve these goals.

More resources

I’m planning to order these books:

If you’ve got a nerdy appetite too, check out the following resources:

Hope you found the information useful and happy teaching your child(ren)!

~ MieVee

P.S. Check out my workshops here


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