When children understand what’s happening in the brain, it can be the first step to having the power to make choices.
This week it’s Children’s Mental Health Week, so we thought we'd ask Dr Hazel Harrison, the creator of Unmind's 'Positive Parenting' series, for some tips to help boost wellbeing in children.
Many of us know how to look after our physical health - teeth brushing, healthy eating, getting good sleep and exercising - but we may be less familiar with the proactive steps we can take to help look after our mental health. Over this week, we'll look at some evidence-based tips, taken from the Positive Psychology toolkit, which any parent, grandparent, carer, teacher - or anyone else who cares for children and young people - should find useful.
Our minds can be very busy, getting pulled into thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Finding ways to focus on what’s happening in the present moment is another way to build your child’s wellbeing.
Here are three different ways to help children develop their mindfulness skills, which will probably work best if you join in too (especially if it’s younger children involved).
Give everyone a pencil and paper, set a timer for 10 minutes, and draw something you can see. Bring your attention to the shapes, colours, and patterns. Look at the object from different angles. Challenge older children to see if they can spot when their mind is wandering (or wondering!) and bring their attention back to the drawing. This activity isn’t about how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the drawing is, it’s about whether you can focus on the activity and bring your attention back when it wanders.
Younger children may enjoy this simple mindfulness technique for bringing attention to their breath. Ask your child to find their favourite small soft toy. Lay flat on the floor and invite them to put the soft toy on their tummy. Set a timer for one minute (or two if you think they can focus that long), and ask them to watch how the toy moves up and down as they breathe in and out. This simple act of noticing the movement allows your child to remain “in the moment” for more than one moment.
Older children (and adults) might enjoy watching this video from the Mindfulness In Schools Project. It’s a 10-minute mindfulness practice that uses a fun and playful animation.
If you’ve got other mindfulness based activities that work for you, your family or school, don’t hesitate to share them with us!
We’ve been sharing other ways to boost wellbeing in children in our previous two blog posts.
You can find out more about Dr Hazel Harrison and the initial campaign we're sharing again over this week on her website.