Tools for Teaching Mindfulness

Teaching Mindful EatingMindfulness seems like a simple enough concept. But it isn’t something that many parents have mastered, or practiced teaching, certainly not me. So if I’m not already practicing mindfulness myself, how can I possibly teach it to my kids? There are lots of tools and articles out there that claim to help, but which ones really work?

A Google search on “teaching mindfulness” pulls up a vast, cluttered collection of confusing advice that definitely does not clear one’s mind. So before settling down to focus my awareness, I weeded through the noise, sharpened my acumen and picked favorites. Here is what I found with some help from my guru, the Internet.

One quick and popular video that goes straight to the source behind today’s obsession is John Kabat-Zinn on mindfulness. If you have a more time, like 45 minutes, watch The Art of Teaching Mindfulness. In this talk Kabat-Zinn explains that “none of us are really capable of teaching mindfulness…it’s the hardest work in the world, at the same time that it’s not problem at all.”[1]

Teaching it must come from a perspective of honesty, integrity and great humility, Kabat-Zinn says, because “we are already complete…we are already whole and perfect as we are.”[2] That is the great paradox of mindfulness, and also meditation (the two are nearly one and the same): “there’s no place to go, there’s nothing to do, there’s nothing to achieve.” [3] Yet there is, in a way.

The real challenge when it comes to teaching children is that “you’re not trying to get the kids to be a special way, but to recognize that the way they already are is insanely special,” Kabat-Zinn says.[4] He advises letting the children be the teachers, “to a certain degree.”[5] So with that, I’ve selected some tools that I suspect my children, who are nearly as savvy about screen media as the Internet itself, will enjoy using to teach me how to be mindful.

Here’s how I’m going to do it:

  • These Mindful kid cards will get my kids talking without me needing to say a word. When that grows tiresome, I’ll remind them that Emma Watson does it and break out the iPhone and iPad.[6]
  • SmilingMind is a free app used by Australian schools that contains meditations for younger kids with parent and child collaboration. I have a teenager and pre-teen, so I doubt that will fly. We’ll test out the sections for 10-12 and 13-15 year olds instead[7].
  • Headspace is another app designed to teach mindfulness. They’ve also developed Headspace for Kids, recommended for children through age 12. Though it comes at a price, these seem to be more popular (outside of Australia) than SmilingMind, so if that one doesn’t work we’ll start the free trial[8].
  • Finally, if all that fails, I’ll seek more advice from professionals by consulting Yogakids for training on teaching mindfulness. It’s the program shown to help improve children’s self-regulation skills in the classroom, according to a paper published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.

I hope you’re in on it too – good luck! Just remember this advice from John Kabat-Zinn, “be what it is that you want to teach, and let the rest of it take care of itself.”[9]

-Guest Blog Courtesy of Heather Knape, Writer and EDMO Parent