How to help children manage stress with mindfulness
Young children are at the very beginning of developing skillful responses to change, and just like the rest of us, can feel frustrated or anxious. They experience changes both large and small.
Larger changes children experience:
- The arrival of a new sibling
- A parent returning to work
- A new caregiver
- Moving home
- Reaching a developmental milestone such as catching a ball
Smaller changes children experience:
- A change in routine
- A new experience like a play group
- Going on a vacation
- A new tooth
We know that as adults we can respond to stress in a variety of ways. We might have a glass of wine or grab a brownie or watch a movie when we’ve had a rough day. But how can we help our kids get off to a good start dealing with anxiety or stress?
There is growing support of the benefits of mindfulness. A mindfulness practice can help us make more conscious choices about how we respond to stress. How might we skillfully teach and reinforce healthy coping with our little ones less than skillful behaviors? Here is a simple game you can play. It is a foundation for mindfulness awareness—simply paying attention to what is happening around us and tuning into the senses.
Help children manage stress with the 5 Senses Game
You can play this with your child anywhere, at any time, and it doesn’t require any props! It only takes a few minutes. It will help your bring your child back to the present when they are feeling overwhelmed by stress or emotion.
Let them know you’re going play the “5 senses game”and then ask your child to “turn on”their senses.
Ask the following:
- What are 5 things you can see?
- Can you name 4 things you hear?
- What 3 things can you smell?
- Can you taste 2 things?
- What 1 thing can you feel in your body right now?
To help them get into the game, you can also play it with them. Practicing this game when your child is calm, and better able to learn, will make it easier to use this as a tool when they are stressed or upset.
Do you have a toddler adjusting to a new baby? Here are 6 expert tips our sibling care doulas recommend to help with this transition.