Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Help a Child With Anxiety by Promoting Mindfulness
By Priya Kumari, Founder — Eternal Tree Books
When kids come to their parents expressing fears or anxiousness about something, it’s common for parents to want to immediately reassure them that there is nothing to be fearful of. After all, because we — their parents — are there to protect them.
However, this is not as helpful when trying to teach our children how to be brave or how to teach them how to regulate and understand their feelings. The perception of normal needs to be reconsidered when explaining to children that, whatever they may be going through, it is normal to feel however they’re feeling.
It’s perfectly normal to have anxiety or fear, just as it’s normal to worry about the outcome of something we care about. Children don’t know this, but parents do. Our concern for our kids’ happiness can sometimes get in the way of teaching them valuable life lessons. It’s important that we help reassure kids about what is normal and natural to feel, as this is the start of nurturing a foundation for a healthy mental state throughout life. The perception of anxiety needs to be revised for kids to allow them to be more comfortable with who they are and with the questions they have.
As a new parent, it’s normal to overthink things and forgot to toss aside the habits we use to console others but can affect kids differently. This is why it’s all the more important to seek help from other parents to help keep an open mind. Mindfulness simply means to be fully present at the moment — doing anything to be present during your day is mindfulness. We often confuse the term mindfulness with the techniques of mindfulness, and while they correlate, they are separate. We don't need to do mindfulness techniques to be actively practicing it. The concept of mindfulness is more than an activity like focusing on breathing or engaging with something. It is about being in a state of awareness. Role modeling mindfulness with our family can improve how we learn to support each other, which can carry on in relationships outside of the family dynamic.
Putting away our phones and silencing our connections to the outside world to instead focus on conversing with our kids while cooking and eating dinner can be a powerful way to promote mindfulness. The smallest tasks can be used to model mindfulness, such as folding the laundry, doing the dishes, or simply being present with someone in a moment by giving them your undivided attention. So often, we divide our attention between those we are present with and our connection to the rest of the world through our digital devices; but the technology was designed to amplify and assist our present reality — not substitute it.
It’s important to protect our children from the world's complexities, but it’s equally important that we teach them how to navigate through it. A core component of this includes learning how to understand our feelings. Breathing exercises are one simple technique you can use to teach your kids mindfulness. Even if they initially protest, drawing children into something new and getting them interested in it is easier when we explain the science behind it.
To quote Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “90% of our nutrition comes from the air! On average, a person consumes 2.5 kg of food and 2.5 liters of fluids every day. But we consume 10,000 liters of air every day through breathing. Your breath is freely available to you. Using it correctly can significantly enhance your immune system and oxygen levels.”
While anxiety and fear are normal, nurturing and promoting mindfulness is a crucial value to teach your children if you want to help them better navigate and understand their feelings.