This might seem too simple, but it is actually an important first step in teaching your child mindfulness. Of course your child recognizes their emotions when they are at extremes. But, how are they are recognizing the feelings that lead up to the extremes?
You can help them become aware of these subtle changes in mood and emotions. A good place to start is when your child is happy or content. Ask them how they are feeling, but take it further. Talk to them about how their body feels. When they are excited about an upcoming trip, ask them if they feel butterflies in their stomach or how their face feels when they can’t keep their smile off of it.
Later, use this same technique when your child is upset. Ask them how their stomach feels, how the muscles in their body feel. Help them discover where in their bodies that they physically feel emotions. As your child becomes tuned into these subtle body changes, they will be able to recognize them before they reach an unpleasant extreme.
Eline Snel, author of the wonderful book “Sitting Still Like A Frog,” asks children to think of the weather event that best fits the mood they are in at any particular moment. This is a familiar and very appropriate activity for children, as we learn to observe the weather from a very early age.
The Weather Station is a wonderful way to teach younger children about emotions.
Mindfulness for children – Weather Station
Purpose: Emotional regulation
Best For: Ages 4+
What you need: Nothing
The exercise is super simple. Simply explain that we can identify good feelings with sunny days and difficult feelings with stormy days.
To do this, sit down and close your eyes, taking a few deep breaths. Now identify the weather event that best matches how you are feeling right now. Do you feel a bit cloudy, or sunny, maybe windy and blustery or stormy and chaotic?
Now think about the weather. We cannot change it. It may not be what we want on that particular day or at that particular moment, but we can get through it, and we know it will pass. Realize that we are not the rain, but we can feel and see the rain, and the rain will come and go throughout our days. We accept the rainy days as we do the sunny days. They are all part of this wonderful life.
Recognising and labeling emotions, this way, can take away the power of the emotion. Describing emotions like weather events can be used as a fun shorthand with your child when talking about emotions feels hard.
If you are new to mindfulness with children we recommend that you read our guide: How To Practice Mindfulness With Children – The Essential Guide
May you be happy and healthy!
Chris Bergstrom is a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is trained by Mindful Schools to teach mindfulness to students in K-12 (but not associated with MS) and a member of the American Mindfulness Research Association. He’s also an executive consultant, and has taught meditation for more than 10 years.