The answer to the question, ‘‘How long should my child practice mindfulness?” is individual for each child. However, as a rule a child aged 3 to 12 years of age may practice ‘formal mindfulness training’ for around 1 to 5 minutes. You may have heard that a child should practice for one minute for each year they are. For example, a 3 year old should be practicing for 3 minutes, while a 12 years old should be practicing for 12 minutes. However, this is the fastest way to have children hate mindfulness training. And if you are trying to get your children to practice formal mindfulness of breath for 5 to 10 minutes you have probably already noticed most children don’t want to practice for that long! In fact, most adults can’t even do it!
Why? Because that’s more like a ‘time out’ to the average child. Children love learning new things when it’s an enjoyable experience. They are also very quick to dislike learning experiences that just aren’t fun. Take a moment and recall you yourself as a child. Would you enjoy sitting still and focusing on your breathing for 10 minutes? No, of course not! What’s more you would probably be wonder what’s wrong with the grown ups!
It’s also important that you don’t push a mindfulness practice onto your child, but instead you discuss mindfulness with them more often and make suggestions of when mindfulness could have helped them through a difficult situation for either improving their state or giving them the ability to concentrate. And listen to what they have to say about their own experiences practicing mindfulness. If you have a child that’s already at school then chances are they are already being taught mindfulness at school. Or should I say, listening to recordings (apps) while they sit at their desk. So your thinking to yourself, ‘Great! The school is taking care of that, just as they are my child’s education. I don’t need to bother.” However, not only do you need to bother, you also need to be concerned! Why? Ask your child!
I’ve asked plenty of primary aged children about their experience with mindfulness at school and they all say the same thing. I HATE MINDFULNESS!
How can we allow this to be happening to our children? Why are we allowing teachers that are untrained in teaching mindfulness to simply play long boring mindful breathing exercises (apps) to our children? What can we do to change this?
Well, we can speak to the teacher and ask them to stop playing apps because your child is not enjoying them. Let the teacher know of your concern to ensure your child isn’t ‘turned off mindfulness’. You can also suggest to the teacher, principle or parent committee, that if teachers do want to bring mindfulness into the classroom that they acquire the appropriate skill set to do so.
Teach them how to brush their teeth using mindfulness. This exercise improves both oral and mental health. It’s easy (if you stick with it and stay with them until they are proficient) and the kids respond very well because they know they need to brush their teeth well and enjoy being with you. And best of all you will be establishing a routine of 2×3 minutes of mindfulness each day. Check out our Mindful Smiles Day campaign to download a free colouring sheet.
You can also try just having them take a few breaths throughout the day (do it with them) – to connect with the present moment. If you want them to practice longer than that then use movement. For example, have them stretch as they consciously connect with their breathing.
For more tips read: 10 ideas to teach kids mindfulness
And if you are keen to improve the wellbeing within your family please sign up for our family orientated mindfulness course . This amazing 8 week online course was designed to help you improve yourself, your mind, your life and your families overall levels of wellbeing.
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Elizabeth Mulhane B.PsySc(Hons)