November 2, 2013

Mindfulness for Children.

I’ve heard it said that children don’t need to learn meditation and other mindfulness practices.

There are those that say that children are already mindful of the present moment. It’s said that kids don’t have as many random worries that take them out of the present moment, that ‘Be Here Now’ is something that we need to learn after we grow up.

When my daughter asks for candy and I tell her no, or when my son fights me over whether or not he should go sit on the potty, they are being mindful of the present moment, aren’t they? My daughter isn’t becoming distracted by the past and the future in the moment that she’s throwing a fit.

So, at first, the philosophy that children don’t need to learn to be mindful seems true. The renowned Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki said that we need to develop a ‘Beginner’s Mind’ and who has more of that than children?

These are good points, but I respectfully disagree.

The benefits of mindfulness are numerous. Including, but not limited to:

relieving stress

improving sleep

improving ability to concentrate

improving memory

relieving anxiety

relieving depression

improving self control

Anyone that thinks that adults are the only ones who need help with those things hasn’t been around children all that much. Obviously, concentration and memory are great things to improve in school age children. They can get ahead early on in school. Self control is a good think to learn early too. A lot of people struggle with it all their lives.

When a child throws a fit, they are in the present moment, but they aren’t truly being mindful. They aren’t thinking clearly; just as when we adults are angry and stressed out, we don’t always think clearly.

And mental illness? Can mindfulness cure it in children?

Probably not. But, in the world now children are prescribed medications at an ever-increasing rate. I would recommend trying mindfulness practices with your children before resorting to putting them on medication. I’ve taught mindfulness practices to children with ADHD and mild cases of autism and their parents have told me that it helped.

I suffered from anxiety as a child and wasn’t really treated. I wish I had learned mindfulness then; and so, my children are learning it (just in case).


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Ed: Sara Crolick


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