Mindfulness and ChildrenIn a recent article in the Irish Examiner, a debate on the topic of mindfulness training for children reinforced the overwhelming argument for its positive effects.

The negative argument relied on parents teaching their children to stand up for themselves and prepare for a tough life as “tomorrow’s teenagers”.

“They’ll need tools to cope and I’m all for that, but unless they are a particularly nervous, anxious, or under-confident child, I really don’t think there’s a need to sign them up for a course in mindfulness,” wrote Karen Funnell.

“A childhood is painfully short, and those few precious years should be spent kicking a ball, riding a bike, or combing Barbie’s hair — whatever floats their boat — not sitting in a room trying to get in touch with their inner peace. There’ll be plenty of time for all that when they head into the real world.”

But, as we’ve already discussed on this blog, mindfulness has already entered the New Zealand schools’ curriculum and has received the backing of teachers and instructors.

New Zealand’s Mental Health Foundation has also revealed research showing that mindfulness techniques and stress reduction programmes in schools had led to “improvements in academic performance, self-esteem, mood, concentration and behavioural problems”.

So it’s not really a matter of choosing either parenting or mindfulness (it’s very rarely the case that life comes down to such binary choices), more that both home and school environments can benefit from an understanding of how mindfulness can work for children.

In fact, simply relying on a course of mindfulness techniques alone, is rarely enough. Rather like sitting down with a French text book for a fortnight is hardly going to set you up for being able to live a full life in France, so learning the techniques aren’t any more than a starting point to learning how to live a mindful life.

For children, learning to connect to “the now” is a good skill, but it takes work and help from a parent or guardian to understand how to turn that into a tool to face life’s more stressful moments, build positive social awareness, regulate their emotions and lead a more meaningful life.

Giving a child the emotional toolbox to be able to face life isn’t all about providing the textbooks and instructional videos – it’s about understanding their needs and walking alongside them as they learn their role in life.

Mindfulness is an excellent tool to have in that toolbox, but it’s really only as useful as the parent who is willing to place it in that toolbox.

So the debate shouldn’t be about whether mindfulness or good parenting should be responsible for growing healthy children, rather it should be how parents can investigate using mindfulness for the good of their kids.

For more information about mindfulness and the individual skills of our psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists  trained in child and family therapy you can email us at info@robertstclinic.co.nz, call us on 09 973 5950, or contact us via the website.