Mindfulness activities for children can reduce stress and ease anxiety. Has there ever been a time our kids needed that more than during this coronavirus upheaval? How can we calm our kids’ worries in this strange time? We spoke with the two mums who started Wave, an organisation that teaches mindfulness to children to get some advice. Take a deep breath and begin.
Please introduce Wave…
Hi, we’re Ella Richards and Gemma Deighton. We set up Wave after discovering the huge advantages of mindfulness with our own children, it then became our passion to spread this knowledge to other parents to benefit their own children. A year later after intensive training (and lots of late night telephone calls when our children were in bed!) Wave was born.
Our name ‘Wave’ was inspired by the mindfulness guru Jon Kabat – Zinn who famously said “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf”. We all know life will throw a lot our way but we can give children from a young age coping strategies and help them to build resilience. It should have long lasting positive effects throughout their life.
What teaching do you offer?
We offer classes within school and nursery settings and run workshops and events in term time and school holidays so look out for them on the events pages. Wave classes are designed for two age groups, Little Waves, 2.5-4 years old and Big Waves 5-11 years old. The class sizes are capped to ensure the children have all the attention they need. We offer private lesson at home and recommend at least a six week course running on a weekly basis to help instil the fundamentals of mindfulness. We can also teach one-off private lessons to focus on a specific worry or issue and can be personalised to suit your child’s needs.
What is mindfulness and why is it important physically and mentally?
Mindfulness is training our attention to be in the present moment with curiosity and kindness; without judgement. Nowadays we have such amazing science behind mindfulness to show how the brain is constantly changing and evolving and through regular mindfulness practice you can help your children make positive improvements in the brain’s structure and function. It can significantly improve their focus and performance.
Mindfulness can have a positive impact on emotional reactions, decision-making and self-control, which results in lower stress levels and enhanced wellbeing.
Any particular reasons it’s important for kids?
We only came to discover mindfulness as adults and wish we were taught it when we were children as I am sure it would have helped us navigate through life a bit easier!
Mindfulness is essential for learning and emotional balance; it helps to protect the developing brain in young children from the negative effects of stress.
We feel it’s essential to teach children to feel grounded in such a complex and fast paced world. We do not know what our children may need in their working lives but what we do know is they will need to know how to listen, how to learn, to focus, to feel their feelings, to love and be loved. These are all important pillars of mindfulness practice.
What age can kids start practicing mindfulness?
Our classes start from 2.5 years old; we feel the younger they can start the more beneficial it will be. Children are like sponges, the younger they can put a regular mindfulness practice into place the better, so doing a body scan before bed becomes part of their night-time routine just like brushing their teeth!
How frequently should they do it to feel a benefit?
Obviously like all things the more often we do it the easier it becomes and the more benefits we feel. However we all know we lead such crazy lives and we don’t want to add anymore ‘homework’ to the parent’s workload!
We recommend any of these three exercises to start with, as a family if possible: take three deep belly breaths before breakfast so everybody can start their morning feeling more grounded; at dinner time start a practice where everyone has a chance to say something they are grateful for or if they did anything kind that day; add a short bodyscan to the bedtime routine by lying down and talking through the body parts doing a ‘squeeze and release’ on each part.
Kids seem unsettled by the changes that the Covid-19 lockdown has brought into daily life. How can mindfulness help?
Ours are also very worried and between us we have five children ranging from 2-8 years old, it’s already noticeable how they all have their own anxieties about it, whether its about food, seeing friends, their school, their homework, etc. This stress and anxiety can put huge amounts of pressure on their immune system, which in this current climate we want to keep it at its optimum level.
We have to let them talk about their feelings, fears and worries about the virus and try and help them navigate through it. It is a very unknown and strange time for us all so one thing we need to try and do is remain as calm and positive as possible for the children.
We all know the sense of calm mindfulness brings to us as adults, even if you only get time for little pockets of the exercises below, hopefully they can help to make your children feel more grounded… and you as parents!
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What can we can do at home with kids to help them (and us!) centre ourselves and reduce stress?
We are currently uploading daily videos on our Instagram during London lockdown with 1-3 min exercises to help you and your children in this tricky time.
Follow Wave here: