In a world of academic, social, occupational, and personal demands, children and adults alike are often too busy and moving in many different directions. As our world becomes more demanding and competitive, even young children often find themselves struggling to balance their many responsibilities and activities, with limited time to rest, relax, or take a moment for themselves. This is where mindfulness can play an important role in enhancing children’s mental health.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to what is happening to you in the present moment. It is not concerned with what happened in the past or what may happen in the future.

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to what is happening to you in the present moment. It is not concerned with what happened in the past or what may happen in the future. When you engage in mindfulness, you should do so with a curious, accepting mind without judging what you are feeling or experiencing.

Mindfulness practices have been shown to lower stress, build resilience, and provide clarity in solving problems. They may also have positive effects on anxiety, depression, impulse control, decision-making, learning, memory, and regulating emotions. By nature, children seem to live in the moment better than adults. As adults, we may function in an autopilot mode, thinking about what we have done, should have done, or need to do, without giving much thought or feeling to the moment. Children are often not focused on the past or the future, but rather on what they are doing right now—the present moment. However, our world has become increasingly hectic and multi-faceted for children as well as adults, and as a result, children find themselves distracted, overwhelmed, and not engaged in the present moment. Children also tend to look for immediate gratification, and teaching mindfulness is a way of slowing down that way of thinking.

Taking a Mindful Pause

A pause is a mindful exercise that reminds us to be in the present, take a breath, take a break, and pay attention to our feelings, thoughts, sensations, and the world around us. Tuning in to our senses and our breath immediately brings us into the present. Taking a pause also helps children and teenagers get out of the habit of bouncing between activities and experiences without taking in what is going on for them in the present moment. A pause gives them more time to think about and make different, perhaps better, choices in their lives.

Some mindful pauses are quiet and calming, like taking a deep breath, turning off electronics, and taking time to slow down. Some are active, such as walking, drawing, painting or doodling, and wiggling your toes. Some involve using our senses, such as learning to listen to the silence or the sound of rain, feeling the sun on the body and face, and feeling the wind. Encourage children and teens to pay attention to details. For example, when they pause to feel the wind blow through their hair, ask them, “Is the air warm or cool?” “Do you smell something in the air, like grass, a flower, or the barbecue next door?”

As you begin to practice mindfulness with your child or teen, you might want to try yoga or breathing exercises. You can also explore mindfulness books for children available from Magination Press.

Frank Sileo Author by Frank Sileo, PhD

This Article's Author

Frank J. Sileo, PhD, is a New Jersey licensed psychologist and the founder and executive director of the Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He received his doctorate from Fordham University in New York City.

In his practice, Dr. Sileo works with children, adolescents, adults, and families. Since 2010, he has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s top kids’ doctors.

He has authored several children’s books including: A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness, Did You Hear?: A Story About Gossip, Bug Bites and Campfires: A Story for Kids About Homesickness, and Sally Sore Loser: A Story About Winning and Losing, which is the Gold Medal recipient of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award.

Related Books from Magination Press

  • A World of Pausabilities Book Cover

    A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness

    by Frank J. Sileo, PhD

    Sometimes we just need to pause — to stop, breathe, and take a moment for ourselves. To be mindful. Told in rhyming verse and beautifully illustrated, A World of Pausabilities is an inviting introduction to mindfulness. Readers will learn how to apply mindfulness to simple, everyday moments, and how days are filled with endless possibilities to take a pause. Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers that further discusses mindfulness and ways to introduce pauses into your child’s life.