Mindfulness has become a popular topic for adults navigating a fast-paced, even anxious, world. Techniques that help us be present in the moment rather than focusing on challenges from an unpleasant past or anxiousness about an uncertain future can be valuable tools in settling the spirit during times of stress. But mindfulness is not just for adults. Practicing mindfulness activities with children and youth is an excellent way to support them in navigating emotional regulation or behavioral issues during conflict.
Mindfulness is not about telling children that their problems are not significant or do not exist. Our role as adult facilitators is to accompany young people in practicing how to recognize and navigate their own emotions. Youth are encouraged to name emotions but not allow them to control a situation.
Mindfulness techniques and exercises are suitable for use when a child or young person is having difficulty in a social setting or group, especially in public spaces or when longer and more personalized intervention may not be practical. These activities can also be helpful when practiced regularly as a skill-building preventative measure. Working mindfulness moments into group meetings or at the beginning of outings and discussions can go a long way in mitigating challenges later on.
A few examples of simple mindfulness techniques that are particularly accessible for young people:
1) Creating a calming mantra or breath prayer that can be repeated over and over in times of anxiousness or stress. This should be a short and affirming phrase that can be easily remembered, such as "I am made in God's image" or "My body is made for happiness."
2) Using the senses to describe emotions, such as asking children questions like "What color do you feel like right now?" or "If your feelings could make a sound, what would that sound be?"
3) Inviting uncomplicated creative expression that could include "Draw a picture of how you feel inside at this moment" or "If your body needed to dance right now, what kind of dance would it do?"
Many of us have used helpful redirection to care for our young people in the midst of intense emotion or outbursts. Mindfulness moments can create a space of healthy and safer release for students needing additional support and care before they are ready to redirect their behavior and reengage with a group.