Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of The Mindful Child, offers these tips.
We all have habits—some of them helpful or neutral, others that persistently create problems in our lives. It’s easier for kids to change habits than grown-ups. One way to start recognising your pattern of automatic behavior is to create external signals that will automatically show up throughout the day. These interrupters provide an opportunity to pause and reflect.
1. Create mindfulness reminders
I have seen kids tie a string around one finger, make mindfulness bracelets of ribbons or beads, or tape a colorful sticker to their cell phones. Whenever you see them, just pause to take in what’s happening in your mind and body.
2. Implement breathing prompts
Suggest to your children to practice breath awareness whenever they brush their teeth or put their socks on. Breathing prompts help kids recognise just how many things they do are on automatic pilot. By interrupting automatic behavior, kids have the time and mental space to make connections between what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, and how they’re feeling.
3. Notice funny feelings
Kids talk about having a funny feeling in the split second just before they do something that they later wish they hadn’t done, maybe a tightening in their chests, or a sinking feeling in their stomachs. That funny feeling occurs in the “about to” moment.
By noticing their funny feelings, kids pause before they act to ask:
- Why am I choosing to do this?
- How does it make me feel?
- Is my motivation friendly or unfriendly?
If, upon reflection, the action doesn’t feel right, they can choose to act differently.