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Mindfulness for Kids: What it is and how to teach it

10:33 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

I feel like mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word at the moment. Especially mindfulness for kids: everyone wants in on the action! And while it seems to have popped up everywhere in the last few years, it’s something that has actually been around for thousands of years – often as part of religious and cultural practices.

Psychologists have been talking about – and practicing – mindfulness for many years too. I first learned about mindfulness back when I was a very new intern psychologist doing a work placement at a private hospital in Sydney. I remember thinking that it was hard! Hard to explain and hard to do! I’d never heard of anything like it or done anything like it before.

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Mindfulness for teens: 5 tips to get them to try it

10:26 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

Let’s talk about mindfulness for teens. I’ve written before about teaching mindfulness to kids, but what about the door slamming, eye rolling, hormone fuelled inhabitants of our homes and classrooms? How can we teach teenagers mindfulness? Is it much different to teaching children? And how do we convince them to actually try it?

Why mindfulness for teens?

Mindfulness – the act of paying attention to the present moment in a non judgmental way – can be a particularly useful strategy for managing stress and anxiety.

Part of learning about mindfulness is understanding that thoughts are “just thoughts”. Just the chatter of our brains, and not necessarily good, or bad, or right or wrong. Not even necessarily true or accurate. Just thoughts. And that constant flow of thoughts that we all have? That’s just what minds do.

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5 fun and easy mindfulness crafts your kids will love

10:16 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

If you’re reading this blog post, I’m guessing you’re at least a little bit interested in mindfulness for kids. Maybe you’re wanting to teach mindfulness to your kids. Or maybe you want to expand on your practice a little bit and add a few more tools to your arsenal. But I’m also guessing that your kids are pretty similar to mine, and sitting down to quietly meditate for 30 minutes (or even 10 minutes!) every day is not their idea of a good time. But do they like craft? Are you nodding right now? Awesome! What about mindfulness crafts?

You see, the great thing about mindfulness, is that is doesn’t have to involve quiet meditation at all. In fact, when teaching mindfulness to kids, we want to make it as fun as possible! Mindfulness for kids can be active, and noisy, and messy. And it works best when we incorporate all of their senses and really make it a whole body experience for them. Which is why craft is a great way to practice mindfulness with your kids.

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Mindfulness for toddlers: How to get started

10:13 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

Mindfulness for toddlers is something I get asked about often. In fact, some variation of, “How do I teach my toddler/baby/preschooler mindfulness?” is probably one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. And it always makes me smile a little. Not because there’s anything wrong with the question – I happen to think it’s a great question. But I also happen to think we’re asking it the wrong way around!

Because toddlers actually have a lot to teach us about mindfulness. We’re often just too busy to pay attention to the lesson.

You see, toddlers are naturally pretty mindful already. Sure, mindfulness for toddlers looks different to mindfulness for adults, or even for older children. But if you’ve spent any amount of time with one recently, then you’ve likely already witnessed their mindfulness in action. You’d know that they’re curious, and they love to explore everything. That they like to take their time, savour experiences, feel emotions fully (and with passion!), and they notice everything (even when you don’t want them to). They delight in the simple things and living in the moment is the only thing they know how to do.

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How to protect your child’s mental health with mindfulness

10:10 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

This week is Mental Health Week here in Australia. And on October 10, we celebrate World Mental Health Day. This is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and reducing the stigma associated with these debilitating illnesses.

Mental health, but particularly youth mental health, is something I’m very passionate about. My entire career as a psychologist has been spent working in mental health. I have seen first hand, the damage mental illness can have on young people and their families. 

But I have also seen the positive relationship between mindfulness and mental health. I’ve seen the powerful effects of mindfulness. And the research agrees with me. Mindfulness build healthy minds. Which is of course, why I started Mindful Little Minds! I believe that teaching kids mindfulness skills can have a hugely beneficial impact on rates of mental illness in children and can drastically improve their mental wellbeing.

So just in case you need more reasons to practice mindfulness with your kids, here are 6 ways mindfulness can protect, support, and improve your child’s mental health.

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5 fun Christmas mindfulness activities for kids

10:08 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

So I don’t want you to panic….but Christmas is less than 6 weeks away. And…December 1st is only 2 weeks away. You know what that means, right?

Well, Christmas is coming of course. But it’s also time to start thinking about your advent calendar, if you’re planning one. Now I love advent calendars. I love the excitement and anticipation they create in the lead up to Christmas day. And I love watching my kids excited little faces each day when they open up the calendar to discover what’s inside.

But I have also found them a little problematic in previous years. For example, when my oldest two children were still very young, we tried the store bought, chocolate per day type of advent calendar. But that didn’t feel particularly meaningful for our family.

So then we tried creating our own advent calendar and including a small treat or trinket each day, like a mini candy cane, a sticker, or stamp or small toy. But I wasn’t a fan of all the tiny plastic things we accumulated when we did this. And again, it didn’t feel meaningful for us.

So next we moved to an activity based advent calendar, which seemed like a better fit. I’m all about shared experiences over things for the sake of things. And that worked well for a little while. But eventually, it started to get on top of us. We would inevitably try to do too much in the name of Christmas fun. Activities became expensive, and time consuming and elaborate and after a full day of work we would just be too damn tired to do yet another Christmas craft. So that kind of all fell apart too.

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Meditation for children: 8 reasons to start right now

10:04 am 28 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

We all want our kids to be happy and healthy, right?! But research tells us that right now, our children are actually more stressed than ever. They are living in a world that expects more of them than it ever has. And it shows. Difficulties like depression, anxiety, ADHD and behaviour problems are on the rise. Our children are struggling.

But meditation can help. And this Thursday May 21st is World Meditation Day. So what better time is there to talk about meditation for children (and its amazing benefits)?!

What are the benefits? Well, studies suggest that meditation can help children develop a range of pro social behaviours. Things like improved empathy, better self control, less aggression and improved attention. It’s also been found to help with difficulties such as anxiety, depression, stress, ADHD, and low self esteem. Sounds like the perfect antidote doesn’t it?!

Yeah. It is! So let’s talk about why your child should be meditating and how to get started.

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How to teach kids empathy

1:10 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

I recently shared a post on social media about the language parents use when communicating with children about their emotions. In the post, I recommended that parents avoid telling their kids that their actions “make” them feel sad (or happy, or angry or…well…you get the drift). And it caused a bit of a stir. Many people who commented on the post believed that using this language was teaching their kids empathy. They were surprised to learn that I didn’t agree. And they were left wondering how to teach kids empathy, if that wasn’t it.

So let me explain. Here’s how we really teach kids empathy.

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You don’t need to teach your child to share

1:08 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

Share. If you have young children, you probably say, or hear, that word about eleventy million times a day. Every time you go to a park, a playground, a playcentre, on a playdate, to a party. In your own lounge room. Dining room. Bedroom. Playroom. Hey, probably even the bathroom. We spend A LOT of time as parents encouraging our kids to share.

And I get it. None of us wants to be the parent of ‘that’ child. We are terrified that if we don’t teach our kids how to share when they are young, they will grow up to be selfish and entitled. The kid no one invites to parties or playdates. We don’t want that for our kids. Or for ourselves!

We want to raise kind, generous kids who get along well with others. And it’s our job to guide them and teach them and ensure that happens right? But what if what we’re doing is actually making things worse?

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5 fun mindful breathing exercises that help kids calm down

1:02 pm 27 April 2021 Jose-Fernandez 0 Comments

Mindful breathing is a simple and effective way to introduce your child to mindfulness and help them learn how to calm their minds and bodies.

Why? Because when the nervous system is under stress, the fight or flight response is triggered. When this happens, the body prepares to either escape or fight a physical threat. This leads to tension in the body, as well as rapid, shallow breathing, which can often further exacerbate stress, fear and overwhelm.

Deep, slow breathing activates the part of the nervous system responsible for switching off the fight or flight response. This sends a message to the brain that there is no longer any danger present and enables your child to calm down.

Mindful breathing alleviates stress and anxiety, and is a simple and effective way to teach children to regulate their emotions.

Teaching kids mindful breathing

Now here’s where it gets tricky. We often tell children to “take a deep breath” when they are feeling upset or overwhelmed. But kids don’t know what “take a deep breath” means. They don’t know HOW to take a deep breath. So simply telling them to do it isn’t going to work. Especially if they’re mid meltdown.

The best way to teach children mindful breathing, is to provide them with visual cues and other sensory feedback which helps them improve their focus and master the technique. We need to teach them in a fun way that they can actually understand by turning a somewhat abstract concept into something they can see and feel.

It is recommended that you do not try any of these mindful breathing exercises for the first time while your child is distressed. Practicing them while your child is in a relaxed and calm state means they will be more receptive to trying something new, and better able to learn the technique effectively.

Ready to get started? Here are 5 fun and easy mindful breathing exercises that help kids calm down

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