Mindfulness and Kids: Helping Manage Stress
Kids may experience anxiety before the start of the school year, or perhaps they have a big game, recital or test. Some stressed kids live in families that have been affected by significant events – parent's health, job, or finances – and everyone in the family is stressed. Every day may feel overwhelming. Mindfulness and similar practices can help kids cope.
The following exercises can help kids learn to respond rather than react to stressful events, calm themselves, concentrate and focus. The exercises are based on techniques from Susan Kaiser Greenland, cofounder and director of the Inner Kids Foundation which brings mindful awareness to underserved kids and families in Los Angeles.
Awareness of Breath
No matter your kids' age, mindful breathing can help. Whether it's getting ready to take a test or to take the field for a game, pausing for a few moments to calm and center themselves can help them perform better. These exercises even work well for young kids and can help them learn skills that will last a lifetime. Breath exercises are also perfect for kids who have a hard time calming down, whether it's before bedtime or transitioning from recess to the classroom.
Stress can lead to unhealthy eating. We crave junk food, or eat mindlessly while watching TV. Working to create a positive mealtime environment can help kids learn to separate emotions from food. They can also discover how delicious, fresh healthy foods taste!
Friendly Wishes Meditation
For those familiar with meditation and Mindfulness, this exercise is similar to a "loving kindness" meditation. It may help kids learn to deal with negative emotions like frustration or anger toward others.
Kids may react better to different strategies. For some kids, keeping a stone in their pocket, or wearing a ring to remind them to take a deep breaths throughout the day is helpful.
For others, aromatherapy brings relaxation. Kids keep a cotton ball with a few drops of an essential oil in a plastic bag. They open the bag and take a few deep breaths to smell the oil when they feel stress.
And there is always getting outside! Even taking a few minutes to step outside and breathe fresh air may turn a stressful day into a peaceful day.
Karen Allaire, RN, MS, CHTP, is a certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. She offers techniques and exercises as a way for helping kids ease their stress and calm their anxieties.