On the first day of school every year, I would stand as stiff as a board in my brand-new outfit with my back pressed against our front door, waiting for my mom to take a mandatory first-day-of-school picture of me. I vividly remember wanting to get it over with so that I could run to the bus stop to shake off the jitters that came with the excitement and nervousness a new school year brought—a whole new year of drama, growth, conundrums, confusion, and fun.
No matter where you are, the first day of school was probably quite different this year. While my Facebook feed indicates that first-day-of-school photos were not affected by the pandemic, I imagine there’s a lot that feels like it’s lost. It might be the luxury of physically sitting in a classroom with peers and friends or simply not being able to get close enough to someone to whisper in their ear in a game of broken telephone. Regardless, kids must be feeling all kinds of feelings. While this year is going to be a challenge for parents and teachers out there, kids may be the ones who need the most support in building their capacity to be resilient, adaptable, and grounded.
Here are a few mindfulness practices for kids that may be useful to you and your little ones.
1. Make Mindfulness Fun
“When we teach kids mindfulness, it helps to turn the lesson into a fun activity—through play, movement, visualization, and games,” writes Christopher Willard. One way to teach kids to follow the breath in difficult moments is with this breath ball practice. All you need is an expandable ball called a Hoberman sphere or your own ten fingers to create a DIY sphere with your hands.
2. Notice Positive Moments
Mark Bertin says kids may feel stressed by a test, or a friend, or their parents and it can be hard to let go of that kind of thought. Like anything else, focusing on the good stuff can take a lot of practice. Here’s an eight-minute guided meditation for encouraging kids and teens to notice the positive.
Wendy O’Leary also recommends breathing practices to calm your child’s nervous system. To try four square breathing, “breathe in for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Breathe out for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Do several rounds and return to normal breathing,” writes O’Leary.