Teaching Kids Be Mindful About Their Needs

Help your kids tune into their needs and learn appropriate ways to get these needs met using mindfulness.

We’re heading home from the science museum.

It’s been a busy morning. We observed, investigated, played, and learned for hours. It was also loud, crowded, and involved tons of walking.

“When we get home, we’re going to have some quiet time,” I say, hoping this will counteract the effects of overstimulation.

Rather than a cheerful “OK mom!” my solution is met with groans and resistance.

Even though it’s clear to me that we’re headed straight for a meltdown, my kids don’t see it. They aren’t tuned into what their body needs or how to return to a state of calm.

They view my suggestion as a punishment rather than something beneficial.

It’s time to teach mindfulness.

Increase Your Child’s Mindfulness

As parents, we are often more in tune with our kids than they are. We know when they’re tired and need a nap, or when their blood sugar is low and they need a snack.

Unfortunately, forcing our “perfect” solution keeps them from becoming mindful about their needs.

Handing off this responsibility empowers your kids, allowing them the opportunity to “tune in” to what’s happening in their brain and body.

  • Explore Options: Since this may be a new conversation for your kids, keep it playful and fun. Talk about things that people enjoy. Some people love being active, others like being quiet; some enjoy being with people, others like being in smaller groups. Allow your kids to weigh in on the things they enjoy.
  • Talk About Calm: Quiet is not the same as calm. Your child may be silent, but their brain may be going a mile a minute. Each child needs to learn which situations and experiences allow their body to fully relax. Explore a variety of things people do to feel calm. Practice together until your child finds a few things that work.
  • Practice a Pause: Now that you have the foundation in place, create opportunities for your kids to slow down and explore what they are feeling. Rather than jumping into the next thing on your schedule or telling them what they “should” do, take a deep breath. Glance at your visual reminder together and have your child pick an option to try.
  • Evaluate: Once your child has experienced a shift in mood or energy level, help them observe how they feel. Did this meet their need? Did this choice help or make things worse? There’s not going to be a one size fits all answer to every situation, but it’s helpful to know what has worked in the past so your child will know what to try next time.

“What do I need?”

Becoming mindful does not happen overnight. It’s a slow process at first. Your child may even be resistant to suggestions or prodding to “tune in.”

And that’s OK.

The goal is to gradually shift from providing all of the solutions, to being part of the conversation, to eventually watching your child take full responsibility for what he’s feeling and what he needs to return to calm.

When to help your child tune in:

  • After school
  • After a busy day
  • After leaving an overstimulating environment
  • When they are bored
  • When they are tired
  • When they are arguing
  • When their mood is “off”
  • When they are energetic
  • When it’s time for bed
  • When they struggle to focus

Rather than designating quiet time upon returning home from the science museum, I ask my kids, “It’s been a busy morning. What do your brain and body need when you get home?”

Since they are familiar with their options, one child may choose to play outside, one child may grab a snack, and one may decide to read quietly.

Mindfulness is Not Just for Kids

With the chaos of life, many adults struggle to identify their needs too!

Taking time to slow down and tune into your thoughts may help you stay calm, focused, and positive when things get overwhelming.

Even if you don’t use this strategy for your kids, it may be a game changer for you.

What do I need?

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Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

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