Using Mindfulness to Help Kids Destress

Posted on July 20, 2016

by Rebecca S

Just as adults suffer from social anxiety and troublesome thoughts that will not go away; so do children. Without the proper channel to digest and deal with their troublesome thoughts, children can begin to act out in inappropriate ways; such as aggression, social withdraw, lack of sleep, and a lack of concentration. By practicing mindful presence and awareness, kids learn to pause for a moment, catch their breath, and get a sense of what they need at this very moment in time. This allows them to move beyond their immediate impulses. They learn to bring friendly-attention to everything they do. They learn not to hide the negative feelings of their own inner world. By experiencing qualities such as attention, patience, trust and acceptance at a young age, your children will be firmly rooted in the here and now, with space to grow and be themselves.

Below you will find three techniques that I use during storytime to introduce mindfulness. The best part about these techniques — they can benefit both the parent and child — when done together!

Mindfulness Techniques

Breathing Buddies

When at home you can let the child pick their favorite stuffed animal to use, but in storytime I pass out puppets to each child to use. Have the child lay on the ground facing up with the Breathing Buddy on top of them over their stomach. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away. The presence of the Breathing Buddy makes the meditation a little friendlier, and allows the kids to see how a playful activity doesn’t necessarily have to be rowdy.

The Art Of Touch

Give the child an object to touch, such as a ball, a feather, a soft toy, a stone, etc. Ask them to close their eyes and describe what the object feels like. This exercise is simple, but compelling. It teaches kids the practice of isolating their senses from one another, and tuning into distinct experiences.

Let’s Talk About Feelings

Sit down and casually, comfortably ask your child to tell you about their feelings. What feelings do they feel? How do they know they are feeling those feelings? Where do they feel them in their bodies? Ask them which feelings they like the best. Then ask them what they can do to feel better when they aren’t feeling the feelings they like best.

All of these techniques can be utilized wherever the child is at when they start to experience troublesome thoughts. These techniques can be used to calm down, slow down and feel better when they are troubled.

Great Library Resources

Little flower yoga for kids : a yoga and mindfulness program to help your child improve attention and emotional balance / Jennifer Cohen Harper, MA, E-RCYT

Little Flower Yoga for Kids: A Yoga and Mindfulness Program to Help your Child Improve Attention and Emotional Balance by Jennifer Cohen Harper, MA, E-RCYT

Certified yoga instructor Jennifer Cohen Harper introduces Little Flower Yoga for Kids, a fun and unique program that combines yoga and mindfulness in an easy-to-read book. This program is designed especially for parents and kids, and is aimed at teaching children to pay attention, increase focus, and balance their emotions–all while building physical strength and flexibility. Based on a growing body of evidence that yoga and mindfulness practices can help children develop focus and concentration, the simple yoga exercises in this book can easily be integrated into their child’s daily routine, ultimately improving health, behavior, and even school achievement.

Mindfulness for teen anxiety : a workbook for overcoming anxiety at home, at school, and everywhere else / Christopher Willard, PsyD

Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety: A Workbook for Overcoming Anxiety At Home, At School, and Everywhere Else by Christopher Willard, PsyD

It’s hard enough being a teen without having to worry about panic attacks, chronic worry, and feelings of isolation. In Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety, a psychologist offers teen readers proven-effective, mindfulness-based practices to help them cope with their anxiety, identify common triggers (such as dating or school performance), learn valuable time-management skills, and feel calm at home, at school, and with friends.

A still quiet place : a mindfulness program for teaching children and adolescents to ease stress and difficult emotions / Amy Saltzman, MD

A Still Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions by Amy Saltzman, MD

Today’s children and adolescents face intense pressuresboth in the classroom and at home. A Still Quiet Place presents an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program that therapists, teachers, and other professionals can use to help children and adolescents manage stress and anxiety in their lives. The easy-to-implement practices in this guide are designed to help increase attention, learning, resiliency, and compassion by showing children how to experience the natural quietness that can be found within.

Meditation is an open sky : mindfulness for kids / Whitney Stewart ; illustrated by Sally Rippin

Meditation Is An Open Sky: Mindfulness For Kids by Whitney Stewart ; illustrated by Sally Rippin

Feeling mindful is feeling good! You know when you’re having a bad day, you have that wobbly feeling inside and nothing seems to go right? Find a quiet place, sit down, and meditate! In this daily companion, kids of any age will learn simple exercises to help manage stress and emotions, find focus, and face challenges. They’ll discover how to feel safe when scared, relax when anxious, spread kindness, and calm anger when frustrated. Simple, secular, and mainstream, this mindfulness book is an excellent tool for helping kids deal with the stresses of everyday life.

A handful of quiet : happiness in four pebbles / Thich Nhat Hanh

A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh

Pebble meditation is a groundbreaking and completely unique technique to introduce children to the calming practice of meditation. Developed by Zen master, best selling author, and peace Nobel Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh, A Handful of Quiet contains complete instructions for pebble meditation designed to involve children in a hands-on and creative way that touches on their interconnection with nature. Whether practiced alone or with the whole family, pebble meditation can help relieve stress, increase concentration, nourish gratitude, and can help children deal with difficult emotions.

Charlotte and the quiet place / Deborah Sosin ; illustrated by Sara Woolley

Charlotte and the Quiet Place by Deborah Sosin ; illustrated by Sara Woolley

Sometimes children need a break from our noisy, overstimulating world. Charlotte and the Quiet Place shows how a child learns and practices mindful breathing on her own and experiences the beauty of silence. All children can relate to the unfolding adventure and message of self-discovery and empowerment. Parents, teachers, and caretakers of highly active or sensitive children will find this story especially useful.

The yoga game by the sea / by Kathy Beliveau ; illustrated by Denise Holmes

The Yoga Game By The Sea by Kathy Beliveau ; illustrated by Denise Holmes

The Yoga Game by the Sea, the first in The Yoga Game Series, invites children of all ages to feel the waves of their breath, to connect with the joy of a diving dolphin and to discover the magic of nature. Play with the words, guess the riddles and enjoy an actual yoga practice, down by the sea. Entertaining rhymes, enchanting riddles and whimsical illustrations create a rich, multi-layered experience.

Parenting your stressed child : 10 mindfulness-based stress reduction practices to help your child manage stress and build essential life skills / Michelle L. Bailey

Parenting Your Stressed Child: 10 Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Practices to Help Your Child Manage Stress and Build Essential Life Skills by Michelle L. Bailey

In Parenting Your Stressed Child, pediatrician and Duke University integrative medicine expert Michelle Bailey shows parents how to provide their children with practical mindfulness-based life skills for keeping calm in stressful situations, including family conflicts, difficulties at school, problems with friends, divorce, and other life transitions.

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