Teaching children to relax

Have you ever considered promoting the benefits of relaxed mindfulness for children or offering workshops for members’ families on this topic?

Experts at Duke University, in Durham, N.C., USA, recommend mindfulness, which is a technique borrowed from meditation, to help children deal with the many academic and social pressures in their lives.

“When adults are stressed, they often turn to smoking, alcohol or food to pacify emotions. We need to teach kids how to handle stress in a healthy way,” said Dr Michelle Bailey, a paediatrician at Duke Integrative Medicine, in an August 2009 news release from the university.

Mindfulness encourages children to live in the moment and not fret as much about future events, Bailey said. In addition, practising meditative techniques can help children sleep better, reduce anxiety and stay more focused.


The following exercises can help young practitioners achieve a level of mindfulness:

Mindful breathing: Ask the child to take time in the morning and evening to pay attention to his or her breathing for 20 inhales and exhales. Steady breathing has a calming effect on the body.

Mindful walking: After dinner, take a walk and pay attention to all the sights, sounds and colours. Encourage the child to use this technique on the playground and at school.

Mindful listening: At the dinner table, ring a bell or play a note on a musical instrument to capture the family's attention, then give each person a turn to speak about their day while the rest of the family gives their full attention, to encourage active listening.

To get the best results, Bailey suggests that families go to an accredited, mindfulness-based, stress-reduction program.

"Mindfulness helps kids recognise their thoughts, reconnect with their emotions and understand how that impacts their behaviour," Bailey said in the news release. "Ultimately, if we can heighten awareness of our thoughts, we can modify our emotions and that changes behaviour."

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