Uz Afzal has been a teacher for twenty years. She is trained in the Paws B Mindfulness in Schools Programme and in teaching the Mindful Schools Curriculum. She was selected to become a consultant for Goldie Hawn’s highly acclaimed MindUP programme. She has led drop-in mindfulness sessions at the Women of the World Festival and popular walking meditations at the V&A Museum in London. Uz is passionate about the potential for mindfulness to support children’s focus and to help them to manage their emotions and enjoy life to the full.
I have practised Uz’s wonderful mindfulness excercises below with the boys and we ALL felt calmer and happier from them.
It is a privilege to share her advice below. Over to Uz.
I have been a teacher for twenty years now and have seen first-hand the increase in stress levels among children. Mindfulness can be a real help in helping with this as it supports children’s focus, their ability to regulate emotions and encourages their capacity for kindness and appreciation.
I’d like to share a few easy practices with you.
But first, a few top tips:
If you would like your child to use mindfulness, it’s important to practice with them and for you to develop a simple daily mindfulness practice yourself.
Choose practices that will motivate or interest your child, so you work with them rather than against them.
Know that there is no rule book for mindfulness. Nor, are there prizes for being the ‘best’. It is a creative practice and the more you do, the more rewarding it can become.
Also, it is absolutely vital to accept that you are a good parent, doing the best that you can.
When I teach children about mindfulness, I often start my sessions by sounding a bell and encouraging the children to listen to the sound for as long as they can.
The children are usually quiet and focused as they do this and after the bell, I explain that what they were doing was paying attention closely or noticing with care, and that this is being mindful. They can also pay attention to what they can see, to how something tastes and to how they are feeling. It’s all about noticing.
Mindfulness supports children’s mental health. From my perspective, as an experienced teacher, I have seen a real difference in children’s ability to focus and regulate their emotions after a mindfulness practice.
For all children, and especially for those who are struggling to manage their emotions, the simple practices that I outline in my book can support them to have a sense of agency over their lives, their thoughts and feelings.
I hope you enjoy these practices.
This is a really helpful practice that your child can use at any time of the day to calm down and to focus.
Place your hand on your belly. Imagine that you have a small balloon in your belly and that each time you breathe in the balloon blows up and each time you breathe out the balloon deflates.
Feel your belly rising and falling as the balloon blows up and deflates.
As you breathe in, you can say to yourself in your head, ‘Blow up balloon’ and as you breathe out you can say, ‘Let all the air out’. Perhaps you can picture the balloon blowing up and deflating with each in and out breath.
(Continue for about 30 seconds to three minutes, depending on the age and attention span of
Eat Like A Scientist
This practice is great for instilling a sense of appreciation in your child and may help them make healthy choices.
Choose a piece of food to share with your child. Fruit or dried fruit works well. Now we’re going to pretend to be scientists. Take a moment to investigate what your food looks like. What colour is it? What shape is it? What else can you notice about the way your food looks? Now let’s use our imaginary microscope.
Looking really closely, can you see any patterns or lines on this food? Next, let’s explore the texture of your food. You can do this either by looking at your food or touching it. Now take a piece of this food and hold it under your nose. Take a deep breath in. How does it smell? Now take a piece of this food and put it on your tongue and we’ll use our scientist’s taste buds to explore further. How does it feel in your mouth? Notice the shape and texture. Does it taste of anything?
Now slowly begin to chew your food, all the time using your scientist’s skills to notice how the taste, shape and texture are all changing.
Keep exploring until your food is finished.
The Grateful Gaze
This next practice is a lot of fun. It helps your child to notice what they have to be grateful for wherever they are.
Take a moment to be still and focus on the breath in your belly. Now look around the space you are in, you might be in your bedroom, or another room of the house, on a journey or outdoors. Wherever you are, can you look around you with a grateful gaze? Can you name each of the things you can see that you’re grateful for?If you are in your room, you might notice your bed, your books, your clothes and so on. If you’re in the kitchen you might notice the food, the drinks, the cups and spoons and so on.
Notice how you feel as you practice the attitude of gratitude.
Mindfulness for Children by Uz Afzal is published by Kyle Books. Illustrations by Sarah Wilkins.
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