Mindfulness Helps Kids with Anxiety

Being Mindful teaches kids to observe their feelings and notice the negative thoughts in their minds.  This in turn lessens their anxiety.   “Why did I do that?” “I’m so stupid.” Do you hear your child saying this?  Kids who are anxious will spin this negative round and round in their minds.  They come to believe it.  This becomes an automatic default for them.  How can therapy help change that pattern?

Mindfulness means noticing and staying in the moment.

To change this pattern they must learn to notice…their thoughts, body sensations, and feelings.  Noticing comes first.  The next step is to breathe deeply to calm down.  Elementary age kids can learn how to do this but it takes practice.  Making a goal on the soccer field needs practice as well.  Breathing is natural so we assume that we know all about it.   But it’s breathing deeply that we all need to practice.   As we slow down, and breathe deeply, we can come to notice our negative thoughts and internal voices.  Once we notice them, we can learn to let them go.  We can learn to replace them with positive ones.

Negative Voices Leads to Loss of Self-Esteem

Poor self-esteem causes kids to doubt their abilities in many areas.  Parents can give them opportunities to learn a new skill by signing them up for an afterschool program.  Kids can participate in dramatic clubs and/or martial arts.  If your child feels like he/she “can’t do math” they may need a supportive parent, older sibling, or a tutor to help them.

Mindfulness tools can be learned in therapy.

Mindfulness simply means paying attention.  Living in the NOW.

In the first session I show the kids pictures of simple YOGA poses such as cat, dog, tree.  They lead the motions and I follow.  We practice together.  I want them to become the authority on listening to themselves.  Kids need to feel their body movements.  They are not used to doing this mindfully.  Then we practice DEEP BREATHING.   Noticing their breath coming in and out, going from their bellies, deep up into their lungs.  And then exhaling.  They begin to notice their body sensations, feelings and thoughts.  This does not come naturally even to adults.

Practice works!

After each session, I will send the kids home with some practice exercises and a record sheet.  The whole family can do them.   In this way we can all slow down and learn to observe our thoughts and feelings, give ourselves time to calm down before overreacting.