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It's All In Your Mind (Page 2)

The ancient practice of mindfulness is helping children stress less and focus better — in school and at home.

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Beyond School

Mindfulness is all about careful listening, paying attention to details, taking note of one's surroundings, and focusing on the task at hand. To any parent who has asked her 6-year-old eight times in a row to pick up his shoes from the living room floor, the practical applications of such a curriculum are clear. And indeed, research has found that the benefits of teaching mindfulness reach beyond the classroom.

In one study of 246 kids in grades four through seven, students who participated in a social and emotional learning curriculum based on mindful practices were more optimistic and better able to navigate their social lives than those who didn’t take part in the curriculum.

Even if your child’s school doesn’t offer mindfulness techniques, you can integrate ideas from the practice into your family’s life. “The principles learned in a mindful classroom can definitely be used at home,” says Amy Saltzman, M.D, a holistic physician, mindfulness coach, and founder of The Still Quiet Place — Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction curriculum, which is offered to schools in the San Francisco Bay area. The benefits of mindfulness are clear for children from preschool on up, says Dr. Saltzman. She has been studying the effects of mindful practices in families and has found that kids who are raised in mindful environments are better able to focus amid distractions, respond less negatively to physical and social threats, and are more compassionate toward others and less judgmental of themselves.

Mindful living similarly benefits adults. “Parents showed an increased compassion toward themselves and their children, and were better able to interact more effectively with their children,” Dr. Saltzman reports.

Nick Morro’s mom, Diana, concurs. “I learned from Nick that when I want to hit the ceiling and scream, I just need to stop and breathe,” she says. “It’s simple and saves me so much aggravation.” 

Try It at Home

To get started on bringing mindfulness to your children’s lives, try these simple exercises, adapted from the MindUP curriculum.

Sharpen Your Senses:

1. Play an observation game. Say something like, “I see a circle in this room. What could I be looking at?”
2. Have your child close her eyes while you provide different scents for her to smell and identify.
3. Say, “Close your eyes. What do you hear? What might be making those sounds?”

Reflect in a Journal:

Kids can write or draw reactions to events that happen each day. Have them describe 

1. What I Noticed
2. What It Means
3. What I Learned.

Just Breathe:

Deep breathing slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and sharpens focus. Practice several times a day, particularly during stressful situations.

Get Some Perspective:

Have children identify the different perspectives of characters in a story (for example, Goldilocks vs. the Three Bears). This teaches kids to consider the feelings of others and to be open-minded.

Practice Kindness:

Nurture empathy by helping your child find ways to show kindness to others, from cheering up a sad friend to raising money for people in need.

To learn about the mind behind MindUP, click here.

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