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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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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6 fun Halloween mindfulness exercises for kids

12:59 pm 27 April 2021 Jose Fernandez 0 Comments

When I think of Halloween, I think of fun games and activities, Halloween parties, yummy food, cute pumpkin crafts, adorable costumes, and getting together with neighbourhood friends to have a good laugh together. And while Halloween might be looking a bit different this year for lots of us, most of these things CAN still happen, and it doesn’t have to be any less fun! In fact, with trick or treating cancelled this year in places, this is a perfect opportunity to focus less on treats and more on health, wellness and connection with the people we love!

So today I’m giving you 6 of my favourite Halloween mindfulness exercises for kids. These activities come from my Mindful Little Halloween Activity Book and will help you make Halloween extra special and lots of fun for your little people this year, no matter what it’s going to look like.

And, while these activities are all playful and fun, they also all serve a very important purpose. They help your child learn about emotions and how to manage them, so that ultimately, you can have a calmer Halloween this year (and a calmer home too!).

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Breathing to Reduce Stress - Calling all Parents, Teachers & Kids

1:25 pm 11 April 2021 Jose Fernandez 0 Comments

During the pandemic, stress is daily and unrelenting - for kids and the adults in their lives. We’re all doing our best, but more help is needed to cope with heightening tensions, anxiety and fatigue (as we enter our third wave across the globe).

Whether you’re a front line worker dealing with daily risk, or at home with your kids trying to manage a new kind of workday, chronic stress has a corrosive effect on the brain and can lead to fatigue, and a weakened immune system. If left unchecked, chronic stress can also take a toll on productivity and personal relationships.

So what can parents and kids do to keep your daily stress levels in check? Well, there are a lot of simple strategies you can try - talking to friends, mindfulness meditation, journaling, doing art, listening to music, getting some fresh air and exercising.

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