Mindfulness with kids doesn’t have to mean 20 minutes of quietly sitting on a meditation cushion. In my time as a teacher, therapist, and parent, I’ve seen hundreds of kids of all ages and backgrounds practice mindfulness, and each kid’s mindfulness practice looks as different as the kids themselves.
For 7-year-old Jackie, who struggles with ADHD and divorcing parents, it means playing with stuffed animals on the floor until either she or I ring a bell, and then we both take three mindful breaths. With Alexa, a curly-haired teen who struggles with food, mindfulness means tuning into her body’s signals, so she can respond to what her body, not her emotions, tells her she needs to eat. For burly Jared, an athlete who fears panicking on the lacrosse field, it means doing a quick body scan during a game and bringing his awareness to the soles of his feet when he senses his anxiety rising.
No matter how we practice it, mindfulness offers the gift of calm and clarity when difficult times arise—which they inevitably will—no matter how hard we try to protect our children. The world is not always a compassionate place; kids will get hurt, if they haven’t been already. But if we teach them, they can discover that their greatest challenges can be the greatest teachers.