Teaching children how to be calm
Calmness and mindfulness is an open and friendly willingness to understand what is going on in and around you. It means living in the present moment (which is not the same as thinking about the present moment) without judging or ignoring anything or getting carried away by the pressures of everyday life. When you are mindful while waking up, eating lunch, playing, or with every major and minor conflict, your mind is not elsewhere but right there in the moment.
You save energy, as you are aware of what is happening while it is happening. This mindful, friendly presence changes your behaviour as well as your attitude toward yourself and other children. Mindfulness is feeling the sun on your skin, feeling the salty tears rolling down your cheeks, feeling a ripple of frustration in your body. Mindfulness is experiencing both joy and misery as and when they occur, without having to do something about it or having an immediate reaction or opinion.
Mindfulness is directing your friendly awareness to the here and now, at every moment. But mindfulness practice involves some effort and intentionality.
Calmness and mindfulness
can be learnt.
How to do mindfulness with children
There is a great book called Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by, Eline Snel.
Could you BE A FROG?
You could introduce the exercise as follows: “A frog is a remarkable creature. It is capable of enormous leaps, but it can also sit very, very still. Although it is aware of everything that happens in and around it, the frog tends not to react right away. The frog sits still and breathes, preserving its energy instead of getting carried away by all the ideas that keep popping into its head. The frog sits still, very still, while it breathes. Its frog tummy rises a bit and falls again. It rises and falls. “Anything a frog can do, you can do too. All you need is mindful attention. Attention to the breath. Attention and peace and quiet.”
LOOK BUT DON’T JUDGE. When you learn to look at things without interference from your thoughts, you will realise that you are seeing more—and interpreting less. You will also retain more, because when you look attentively, you really see things.
Here is an exercise for young children. Try to remember five things that you see (a tree, a traffic sign, an unusual house, the entrance to your school, the classroom door). What do they look like? You can train yourself to see more and more properties of the tree or the traffic sign, such as colours and shapes, spots and stripes. By looking without judging whether something is pretty or ugly, you will see more of the world around you.
LISTENING TO A SOUND without immediately wanting to label it strengthens our ability to really listen to one another. What sounds can you hear right now? Are they high- or low-pitched, humming or buzzing sounds? Can you detect some kind of rhythm? Are the sounds behind you or in front of you? Far away or close? Are they outside you? Can you hear any sounds inside yourself?
EATING WITH MINDFUL ATTENTION may seem simple, but it can be quite a challenge. Try to get all the children to eat one attentive mouthful without comments such as “Ugh,”“Yummy,”“We eat this all the time,” or “I don’t like this.” It can be a surprising experience. Discuss what you smell, notice, taste, and feel in your mouth when you take a mindful bite. Hold it in your mouth for a moment, and swallow. Take a bite and note the following:
- What do you really taste once you stop thinking about the food being either tasty or nasty? (Remember, these are just thoughts.)
- Do you have a salty, sweet or bitter taste in your mouth? Or a mixture of all three?
- Does it feel hard or soft in your mouth? Rough or smooth?
- What is happening in your mouth while you are eating? What do you experience? Can you feel your mouth watering? What is your tongue doing? What happens when you swallow? And when do you lose track of your mouthful?
There are great books regarding mindfulness and calmness for children such as