The uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone feeling a wide mix of feelings: anxiety, boredom, grief, confusion, frustration, and loneliness to name a few. Helping children recognize and identify their feelings is an important life skill that will be useful long after the pandemic is over. This repost from April 2018 from Magination Press author Lauren Rubenstein, JD, PsyD, explores how we can use mindfulness to examine emotions in a calm, thoughtful way. Take a minute right now to pay attention to what’s going on around you. What do you hear or see? Do you notice anything new? Now, turn your attention inward. What are you thinking, and how do you feel? Mindfulness—as you just experienced—is tuning into yourself and paying attention to the present moment without judging or analyzing what you are thinking or feeling. Although it seems quite simple, it is not easy. Our busy minds are constantly darting and drifting, telling stories about what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future. For children and teenagers, mindfulness is a powerful tool that can enhance many aspects of well-being. As parents and professionals, we can encourage children to be mindful, to cultivate emotional intelligence through their senses, and to reflect on what they learn. Linking Mindfulness and Emotions In order to connect mindfulness to our emotions, we can use the idea of “visiting” our feelings. We can encourage children and teenagers to sense, explore, and befriend all of their feelings with acceptance and equanimity. Emotions and feelings are neither good nor bad, neither acceptable nor unacceptable. Rather, they are simply present-moment experiences of felt sensations. Instead of trying to suppress or undo feelings, we invite children to explore their feelings with their senses and even converse with them. Awareness of how feelings can lodge in the body, as conveyed by common expressions like “a pit in the stomach” or “a lump in the throat” is a form of emotional intelligence. This awareness helps children and teenagers handle any feelings that may arise with equanimity. It also helps them mindfully gain sensitivity to their bodies as rich kaleidoscopes of information. They can cultivate this emotional intelligence through their senses by learning to explore the range of emotions they encounter within themselves on a daily basis. Encouraging Mindfulness Mindfulness can take many forms. Physical practice includes yoga, tai chi, martial arts, and even mindful walking. In fact, any activity can be done mindfully—for example, brushing your teeth, putting on your socks, or practicing the piano. There are many simple exercises you can do at home to help teach your child to be mindful. Reflection activities can be introduced seamlessly into your family routine. Remember: “Short times, many times” is ideal, both in terms of cultivating a mindful brain and fitting practice into busy schedules. For example, before a family meal, have each person at the table name three things they are grateful for. Discuss where the food came from and express gratitude forRead More
About Lauren Rubenstein, PsyD, RCYTLauren Rubenstein, JD, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Bethesda, MD. She also teaches yoga and mindfulness to children and adolescents, including kids in Haiti living in extreme poverty. Her humanitarian work in Haiti has been featured in the Huffington Post. Dr. Rubenstein donates proceeds from Visiting Feelings to the Go Give Yoga Foundation.
Take a minute right now to pay attention to what’s going on around you. What do you hear or see? Do you notice anything new? Now, turn your attention inward. What are you thinking, and how do you feel? Mindfulness—as you just experienced—is tuning into yourself and paying attention to the present moment without judging or analyzing what you are thinking or feeling. Although it seems quite simple, it is not easy. Our busy minds are constantly darting and drifting, telling stories about what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future.Read More
Did you know we take some 23,000 breaths each day? Have you ever noticed that you hold your breath at times, or that your breath sometimes speeds up—perhaps when you are anxious? We can learn to calm ourselves down or rev ourselves up with breathing, and it is a perfect place to begin mindfulness practice with children. Our breath is always available, and we can practice breathing anyplace, anytime, without anybody even knowing we are doing it. In fact, our breath very well might be our self-regulation superpower!Read More