In order to be aware of how mindfulness can be of benefit to our children, and our communication with them, we first must be aware of precisely what is meant by the term. Mindfulness is simply focusing on the present moment, disregarding the past and the future, and calmly accepting everything about the present we are experiencing, including our thoughts, our feelings, and any bodily sensations that may occur.
So what, exactly, can mindfulness training do for your child. First, let’s take a look at how these types of training affect the brain itself, and how those slight changes can provide benefits. The amygdala is the part of the brain which becomes most active when we are experiencing strong emotions, such as fear. Physically, the amygdala is a small almond-shaped mass of gray matter found in each hemisphere of the brain. These small organs are responsible for the fight or flight reflex which we experience when under stress, Studies suggest that mindfulness training may cause the amygdala to become less active, allowing us to deal with our stress more logically and less emotionally. The hippocampus is the part of the brain critical to learning and memory and helps to regulate the activity of the amygdala. During mindfulness training, the hippocampus becomes more active and produces more gray matter density. Mindfulness training can also improve the prefrontal cortex, the era of our brain responsible for maturity, emotional stability, and making wise decisions. This all sounds good, but how does it affect children?
We all know how important it is to communicate with our children, but how can we be sure we are doing this effectively? We want to speak the truth, but we certainly don’t want to cause them stress or anxiety. Mindfulness training can help with this. It can help your child focus on the moment, without the baggage of the past or future. They can understand and incorporate the conversation without experiencing the stress and fear created by an overactive amygdala. They can learn from the conversation, creating new memories in their hippocampus. And, thanks to improvement in the prefrontal cortex, they will be able to deal with any problematic situations with an increased level of maturity, making wise decisions not based on an over-emotional response. Don’t get the idea that they will be changed into little automatons. Studies show, to the contrary, that mindfulness training makes an individual more compassionate, more willing to help, It improves socio-emotional skills, giving them a sense of well-being that they are eager to share. There are so many things in these times that we may feel uncomfortable talking to our But how many of us dread having these conversations because we fear our child’s responses, and the effects they are likely to experience. kids about, but there are conversations we know we must have. It could be about personal things such as sickness, death, or divorce, or more societal topics such as natural disasters, pandemics, or the like. Mindfulness training can help both adults and children handle these conversions more easily, and even prevent the emotional trauma we may fear is to come. Studies have shown that, due to the way they process situations in the present, children have a decreased risk of developing posttraumatic stress issues.
Your child will also benefit from mindfulness training in regard to the educational experience. After all, what is education but a conversation between teacher and pupil? Studies have shown that the training helps a child improve emotional regulation, limiting disruptive outbursts and tantrums. The student may exhibit improved focus, concentrating on the task at hand. Trained students have a greater sense of compassion, reducing incidents of bullying, and improved engagement with their classmates.
Mindfulness training is not a new age bugaboo designed to take over your life. It is a simple set of skills which can be used by everyone, adult and child alike, to make our lives better. Imagine a world with less stress and fear-based reactions, and more compassion and social sharing. A world where people act maturely and reasonably, not react emotionally and unwisely.
By Nicholas Wilkinson