Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids
The mind body connection is an important aspect of integrative and holistic medicine's approach to wellness. A recent article in the New York Times health section highlighted the benefits of mindfulness and how key it is to the health and happiness of our children. As the mother of a very active 3 year old daughter, I find this research to be very exciting and so applicable to my family life. The article references several studies that have explored implementation of mindfulness programs in school settings and then measured outcomes related to academic performance, attention, social interaction and stress levels. The results were astoundingly positive- children who participated in these programs showed improvement in cognitive function. Even more interestingly, these children demonstrated more empathy, more self control, less stress and less aggression. Better academic outcomes AND better emotional health- amazing!
I believe everyone can benefit from incorporating a mind body practice into their daily routine, however children are particularly responsive because their brains are still developing. Throughout childhood and adolescent our brains are making connections or neural pathways at much faster rates. The addition of mindfulness practices during this time of rapid growth significantly boosts cognitive outcomes.
Wouldn't it be great if mediation and mindfulness were incorporated into the curriculum in all schools- preschool through high school? The research certainly supports it. While it it my hope that one day in the near future this is a reality, it is likely necessary as parents to teach our children these valuable skills at home. I find with my little one that taking deep breaths is incredibly helpful when she is upset or processing a difficult emotion like frustration. I simply say, "Let's take a couple of deep breaths" and she closes her eyes and we take 2 or 3 deep breaths together. It works. We also try and focus on our breathing before bed as a way to settle down.
What do you find works with your children at home? There are many great resources- has anyone found one book or technique particularly helpful?