What does it mean to be mindful and how does it promote a positive mindset?
Mindfulness is described by its founder, leading meditation practitioner and advocate, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” Positive thinking is explained as the ability to perceive all situations, whether good or bad, in a constructive way.
Providing your child with the best possible resources to tackle life’s challenges is every parent or caregivers’ priority. Equipping a child with mindfulness enables them to get in touch with both their thoughts and emotions. Creating a positive mindset equips them with a ‘can-do’ mental attitude that fosters confidence and the ability to apply their own capabilities in an independent and constructive manner.
There are bountiful rewards to promoting mindfulness and positivity in children. Researchers have concluded that children as young as five are able to connect with their emotions, so equipping your child with the skill-set to recognise and regulate their moods and control their cognitive focus will go a long way in improving their attention span and allow them to make better decisions.
The mindful child is better able to cope with trauma and life’s adversities as they have developed coping mechanisms that they can use to interpret and process the issues with which they are presented.
Here are some happy habits to teach your child about being mindful
1. Be a role model
First and foremost, it is essential that a parent or caregiver practices what they preach. You need to be seen as an authentic role model in your own life before having an expectation of your child. Moods and attitudes are contagious so it’s best to start by adopting a healthy and productive mindset that will serve as an example for your children.
2. Keep it simple and fun
Teaching mindfulness and positivity is neither a punishment nor a chore. Timeouts or naughty corners are not the objectives. Rather, it is a lifestyle choice aimed at allowing a child the ability to recognise and understand what thoughts and emotions are in relation to a situation and, in doing so, provide them with the tools to practice impulse control and self-awareness.
Start off by drawing attention to the simple things: eyes – see, ears – hear, nose – smells and heart – feels. Ask them to describe what it is they see, hear, smell or feel. This will help them understand their surroundings and their power of perception.
Improve their understanding with a simple analogy like a weather report. Sunny skies denote happiness while stormy rain clouds mean sadness. Ask them for a daily personal weather report to aid them in honing their explanations.
3. Create a positive environment
Providing a positive environment is an essential ingredient for fostering a similar attitude in a child. A constructive environment is one that will allow a child to learn and grown, and will teach self-confidence, respect, consideration, common sense, flexibility and tact. Things that help create this include: observing healthy eating plans, regular exercise and making the effort for quality family time.
4. Teach internal dialogue
Words can be a powerful emotive force that can raise a person up or tear them down. Teach your child the beauty of positive self-talk dialogue. This is important in creating a sense of self-worth in your child and will allow them to cope with disappointments such as failing a test or having a fall-out with a friend. Help your child make a list of positive words or phrases they can use like:
- I am a good listener
- I can handle challenges
- I help my brother / sister
Print these out and stick them around the home like in the kitchen or in their bedroom. This will help them internalise the meaning and act upon it as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Similarly, it’s important for parents to focus on enriching their child with positivity through their own words. Too often we can be frustrated and controlling with children. So try positive statement like:
- You make a difference in my life
- When you make a mistake, I still love you
- Your ideas are very interesting
5. Appreciate the silence
Taking the time to appreciate silence will calm your child and allow them to appreciate his or her surroundings. Try to make this exercise easier with a fun activity like a daily walk. While on your walk, practice five minutes of silence. Challenge your child to be mindful of all the goings-on around them so that they can report back afterwards. Whether it’s the sound of the neighbour’s dogs barking, the sight of people jogging or riding their bikes or the feeling of the grass under their toes – it all encourages mindful concentration.
6. Practice gratitude
Teaching your child to be grateful for what they have promotes positivity. Gratitude is closely aligned with mindfulness so encourage acts of generosity, adopt a goodwill project or practice a moment of gratitude at supper time or in the car on the drive home. Start off by expressing something that you are grateful for – like having enough food to eat each night and ask your child to reciprocate with their own thoughts and ideas.
7. Acknowledge & reframe negativity
Don’t deny the fact that there is adversity in life. The idea behind mindfulness is to understand and react constructively to all situations. Identify a perceived negative and try to have your child reframe this into a more positive application. For example:
- “I hate eating vegetables,” into “vegetables are good for me and I will try to eat more”
- “I can’t do math,” into “math is difficult but with hard work and help from my teacher, I will try to do better”
8. Focus on meditation
Take a few minutes each day to practice focussing with your child. This is an ideal way for them to become more mindful of the present. Explain to your child that their brain needs mini-breaks and that meditation gives them a much-needed boost or recharge. Meditation practitioners recommend 10 Mindful Minutes each day to equip children with the skills needed to reduce stress.
9. Encourage positive time
Fun family activities or positive time will help your child look forward to and incorporate mindfulness and positivity into their daily lives. Gardening, reading or helping with the daily household duties should be taught as problem-solving achievements that will help him or her in the present or future. For example:
- Recycling helps take care of the environment so that our planet is kept safe
- Reading has made me smarter so that I can do well at school
10. Develop a moral compass
Teaching your child empathy encourages compassion and how to value others – all of which are part of mindful thought and behaviour. Help your child develop a strong moral compass by teaching them the difference between right and wrong and how this affects those around them.
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