5 Mindful Ways to Help Your Kids Find Calm

The founders of the Holistic Life Foundation share their tips for encouraging kids to be more mindful.

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Ali Smith, Atman Smith, and Andres Gonzales—founders of the Holistic Life Foundation—share five tips on how to use mindfulness to help kids build resilience and find calm.

5 Mindful Tips for Parents

1. Start with Love

If kids know we genuinely love and care for them, no matter what happens, they will be a lot more engaged. Kids look for a support system, people who care about them, who have their back.

2. Breathe 

The breath is a powerful tool to help kids relax physically but it also helps their minds stop racing. It puts them in contact with how they feel. It’s very powerful, for anyone, at any age. Over time they see how it’s changing them, the way they feel about things, the way they interact with other people, the way they let other people control their moods or not control them, their impulsivity. If someone pushed them, in the past the kid might have reacted. But once they gain that introspection, there’s a split second when they think, “I could punch this person or I could stop, go away, and do some breathing.” They know the outcomes. Look what happens when you walk away: You don’t have to deal with all this nonsense.

3. Meet Kids Where They Are 

You can’t go in with any preconceived notions; you gotta figure out what’s going on with them. Where they are physically, mentally, and emotionally, and work from there. Never expect the cookie-cutter approach to work. Have an idea of what you want to do, but be prepared to throw it all out the window at the drop of a hat. One of the best tools you have is observation: being able to gauge the energy and temperament of a kid and adjust from there. If they’re too hyper, encourage some physical activity to burn off the excess energy. When you sense they’re ready, you can push them along a bit. As the kids get older, you can ask them: “Who are you?” They’ll say their name, but say, “No, that’s your name. Who are you?” There’s this realization that they’re a part of a larger whole, which helps them feel responsible for themselves.

4. Let Go of Expectations 

It’s great to have goals for a child, but you are setting yourself up for failure if you have too many expectations. You’ll start to blame yourself when those expectations are not met. The important part is for you to be in the moment, too. Be flexible and be resilient.

5. Have Fun 

Kids should smile, laugh, and have fun. Tell jokes, watch some cartoons so you can include pop culture references, quote songs they like—anything you can do to relate to them. Superhero movies and quality cartoons can help. You can see Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk movie doing breathing exercises to keep calm. 

This article first appeared in the April 2013 issue of Mindful.

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