Children are naturals at present moment awareness - they are born with a beginner's mind and continuously engage in moment-by-moment exploration as they learn about their world. Just watch a baby explore a blade of grass for the first time. She is so entirely engaged in the moment, taking in information from all of her senses... A toddler on a fall walk, exploring all the colours of the leaves on the ground, on the trees... each pile a new experience, full of discovery... with enthusiastic proclamations about the colours on this leaf, on that leaf, again and again, with a beginner's mind...
However, as children get older, they are bombarded with stimuli – advertising, television, video games, etc. that get their attention bouncing so quickly, that it can be difficult for them to focus. So often, children are told to “pay attention,” but they aren’t really taught how to do so.
Kids also face increasing pressure to achieve. Kids have stress, but are not often provided with tools to manage it. Education continues to focus on core academics, rather than teaching social emotional skills, even though EQ (emotional intelligence) is a greater predictor of success than is IQ.
Mindfulness is a way to support children’s social development and build resiliency. Exciting work with children in schools in the U.S. and in Canada is showing the potential benefits of mindfulness practice for children, such as increased happiness and more successful relationships.
In my work with children, I have seen children become more compassionate towards others and themselves through mindfulness practice – specifically, Loving Kindness practice. I have also witnessed how children can learn to be aware of their emotions and take a moment to notice what is happening for them before reacting. For example, naming anxiety, anger, worry, etc. has led them to reflect on what they need rather than to quickly react, while being 'swept up' in the emotion.
I teach Mindfulness to children in a fun, interactive way through songs, stories, games, movement, expressive arts, mindful eating and short meditation practices.