You’ve likely tried to be more mindful—and have felt better on the daily as a result. After all, studies across the board indicate that being more mindful can slash stress, depression, and anxiety, and lift your mood across-the-board. And, according to one study in Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, it can hone your attentiveness into a razor-sharp spear. If you’re a regular practitioner of mindfulness and have experienced any of these life-changing results, you may wind yourself wishing only one thing: that you started the whole deal earlier.
Well, even though it’s too late for you, it’s not too late for your kid. By planting the mindfulness seed early, you can foster a sense of true balance and deep purpose in your kid—one they’ll carry through life. Herein, we’ve rounded up the best and brightest ways to make your child, well, the best and brightest. And for more sage wisdom, check out the 40 Parenting Hacks for Raising An Amazing Kid.
Let them embrace their emotions.
Whether it’s dealing with a bully or a breakup, instead of teaching your kids to ignore the situation—and, by proxy, their emotions about it—teach them to dive headlong into how they feel. According to research out of the University of Utah, people who embrace their feelings tend to develop more stable emotional tendencies throughout life. This tip is especially pertinent for boys, by the way, since they’re socially conditioned to repress anything and everything. And for more parenting advice, learn the 30 Things Moms Should Never Say In Front Of Their Daughters.
Get them stretching.
If you kid is part of any sports team, chances are, they already do plenty of warmup stretching. But there are stretches out there specifically targeted for boosting mindfulness. In fact, these moves are so effective that health services office at the University of California, Berkeley, issues a mindful stretching guide to faculty. Instill the practice from an early age.
Do not wake them up.
For folks of all ages, sleep is absolutely essential for a balanced mind. Getting regular rest reduces anxiety, stress, and depression, and can work magic on everything from skin quality to energy levels. And while adults should get about seven hours per night, kids—teenagers in particular—need much more. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens should get about 10 hours per night—but only 15 percent of American teenagers report sleeping more than eight. If you kid’s snoozing, leave them be. And if you need help for shuteye of your own, check out the 11 Doctor-Approved Tips For Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.
Take them on vacation.
According to researchers out of Northwestern University, international travel can spur creative thinking. When you consider that creative minds tend to be more emotionally intelligent—and that youthful minds are malleable, in a growth stage—taking your kid abroad is among the best moves you can take for their long-term mental wellbeing. For ideas on where to go, check out the 15 Summer Trips Your Teenage Children Won’t Hate.
Ship them off to the woods.
Yes, for doting parents, summer camp is a bummer. But all that time spent in the wild is good for your kid. According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, talking walks and spending time amid the greenery can grant serious, long-term mood-lifting. Cultivating an affinity for nature early on will help your kids stick with it later in life. Oh, and they’ll also make (potentially lifelong) friends at camp. And for more on parenting, don’t miss the 30 Tweets Every Mom and Dad Can Relate To.
Instill smartphone limits.
According to research conducted by Common Sense Media, kids spend, on average, nine hours daily on their phones. When you take into account the well-documented negative effects smartphones have—from to “tech neck” to increased stress levels to decreased sleep, something, again, kids need a lot of—minimizing device use is a no-brainer. Instead of outright banning phones (they’ll fight you), find small pockets where you can lord your rule: say, the dinner table, or an hour before bed. Every little bit count. For more incentive, learn the 30 Best Reasons to Take A Digital Detox.
And social media limits, too.
Social media is stress-inducing enough for adults. Imagine how bad it is for teens, whose lives are infinitely more messy and dramatic. Limit your kid’s time spent on platforms by installing StayFocused, a Chrome plugin that automatically limits how much time you can spend on a certain web site per day. For instance: say you set Facebook to a one-hour limit. Once that hour mark is hit, in total, over the day, the page won’t load until the next day. And for more reasons why you should steer clear of Twitter, Instagram, and the like, learn the 20 Reason Social Media Stresses Us Out.
Foster an attentive eye.
The core part of mindfulness is, simply, to be in the moment, aware of the sights and sounds around. When going on walks with your kid, take care to point out as many details as possible—from chirping birds to weird-looking trees. After some time, start having your kid make observations on their own. They’ll learn to be more aware of their surroundings throughout life. For more great parenting advice, check out our guide on how to teach your teen to drink responsibly.
Adopt a pet.
As a study in the Journal of Attention Disorder revealed, kids who take part in canine-assisted intervention (CAI) grow up to have healthier social interactions than those who take part in regular cognitive behavior interventions. For parents of kids with ADD or ADHD—a not uncommon prospect, since, according to CDC figures, there were 6.1 million cases in 2016—adopting a pet can work wonders on helping a kid manage the condition. So next time your kid asks, “Can I have a dog? I promise I’ll take care of it,” take heed—even if you know they’re lying.
Teach them not to value objects.
According to the Association for Psychological Science, folks from western cultures tend to treat thoughts and feelings as if they’re physical objects. Of course, this can lead to a whole lot of issues, including the insidious idea that you can blunt-force your emotions into doing what you want them to. If you teach your kids to value transient experiences (fleeting vacations, transcendent concerts, that sort of thing) over tangible objects, then they’ll be more likely think holistically about, well, their thinking.
Have them read the weather.
As Eline Snel outlines in Sitting Still Like A Frog: Mindfulness Exercise for Kids (and Their Parents), you can deploy the weather to teach your kids about mindfulness. Instead of asking them to overtly identify with feelings, which can be complex and tough to accurately identify, ask them to describe their emotional state as if they would the weather. “I’m feeling cloudy and cold,” for instance, “Or I’m feeling sunny and breezy.”
Call in Spider-Man.
To get your kids interested in actually being more mindful, call in something all kids love: superheroes—specifically, Spider-Man. As the folks at Kid Relaxation detail, there’s a Spider-Man-themed meditation practice, and it deploys sight, touch, hearing, scent, and taste to activate your kid’s “Spidey senses.” Give them great power. The responsibility will come naturally.
Teach them “thank you.”
Every day, once a day—maybe at dinnertime—have your kids state one thing they’re thankful for. It doesn’t have to be a big, Thanksgiving-caliber speech; a little thing will suffice. This trick will go a long way in teaching them to be grateful throughout life.
Enroll them in band.
Researchers at Ruhr University Bochum found that classical music, more than any other type of tunes, can lower heart rate and calm down brain chatter. Thankfully, there’s a place in your kid’s school that offers near-constant access to classical music: the band room. Starting them early will get them into the genre for life. For your own sanity, though, steer them away from horn instruments (the shiny ones pictured). The learning process for wind and reed instruments tends to be way less harsh on the ears.
Be more mindful yourself.
Teach by example. You’re their biggest role model, after all. And when it comes to your own mental balance, start by banishing the 20 Ways You’re Stopping Yourself From Being More Mindful (Without Realizing It).
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