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For many families, adjusting to the changes of a new school year brings increased stress and anxiety. Fortunately, mindfulness is an easy and effective way to reduce or eliminate some of these worries. Here’s how mindfulness can help and how you can make it part of your family’s routine.
What is mindfulness, and how can it help?
“Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment,” said Tarrah L. Bowick, LCSW at Inspira Health Bridgeton. “Instead of worrying about the unknown or feeling anxious about the future, mindfulness helps you notice, enjoy and appreciate what’s happening now.”
Teaching mindfulness to children helps them manage stress, approach new challenges and improve self-esteem. Research suggests the benefits of mindfulness may include improved cognitive focus and performance and decreased stress levels. Being mindful can also help you to:
- Increase your attention
- Stay calm and control your emotional response
- Slow down instead of rush
- Become a better listener
- Be more patient with others and yourself
- Get along better with others
- Feel happier and enjoy life more
“Mindfulness is especially beneficial for children and adolescents because it promotes skills such as cognitive control and focus, which the prefrontal cortex controls,” said Bowick. “Since the prefrontal cortex develops at its fastest rate during childhood and adolescence, a consistent mindfulness practice can significantly impact the development of prefrontal skills including judgment, patience and impulse control.”
Many children struggle with anxiety before the start of a new school year. Returning to the classroom after a long break can feel intimidating, and it’s common to have some concerns about what to expect.
Mindfulness gives your child the space to acknowledge their feelings around the back-to-school transition. This self-awareness sets your child up to respond to challenges rather than reacting—a crucial skill in successfully adapting to the new school year.
Incorporating mindfulness into your family life
There are many ways to practice mindfulness with your family and make it part of your routine. To introduce the idea of mindfulness, guide them through an activity that encourages them to pay attention to their senses. Create a game out of naming what they can see, hear, feel, smell and taste.
Another way to incorporate mindfulness is by practicing gratitude. Start a gratitude scrapbook with your family. Incorporate words, pictures or drawings of people, places and things you love and appreciate. This practice might be a great way to end your day on a positive note.
Introduce the idea of mindfulness meditation to your family. Guide them through the process of laying down or sitting in a comfortable position, noticing how their breath feels in their body, finding stillness and shifting their attention inward.
“You can also incorporate mindfulness meditation while doing yoga,” said Bowick. “Movement is a great way to shift your focus to the present moment and pay attention to your body.”
Whichever method you choose, prioritizing mindfulness can help your child manage their anxiety about heading back to school.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.