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Mindful reading for parents today

by Melissa Jane Cook
Baby Yum Yum - Mindful reading for parents today
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A book that embraces wisdom, compassion, and serenity, Mindfulness for Children (Jonathan Ball Publishers) is superb reading that gears four-to-11-year-olds to quieten their minds and pull themselves towards a calmer, more tranquil space in stressful situations.

mindfulness-for-children-book-uz-afzalWritten by Uz Afzal, a teacher spanning 20 years, she provides immense insight into children’s feelings, thoughts and lives and how to manage mindfully in all these spheres.

This positive and practical tool will give children the skills to manage their feelings and increase their confidence and concentration levels. It can help parents and caregivers, too, by promoting happiness and relieving stress.

In this current era of rising levels of child mental health, with the pressures in schools as well as the increasingly fast-paced, digitised and image-obsessed world, it is absolutely critical that children have the tools to practise mindfulness and instil a sense of tranquillity and peace within themselves.

“In this current era of rising levels of child mental health … it is absolutely critical that children have the tools to practise mindfulness and instil a sense of tranquillity and peace within themselves.

Combining practical exercises that children can complete alongside their parents/carers with a fun and engaging commentary on the theory and science behind the practice, Uz takes you through the day, from waking, eating, learning, to appreciation, gratitude and sleeping. She includes exercises for how to cope with exams, how to deal with the screen culture and what mindfulness practices you can do in holiday time. Together, this gives the reader an enjoyable and accessible path into the practice of heedfulness for children.

Try these three simple exercises with your kids to focus and remain calm in stressful situations. Remember to keep them light and fun:

  1. Balloon breathing: To start, ask your child to place their hands on their abdomen. “Tell them to imagine that they have a small balloon in their belly and that each time they breathe in, the balloon blows up, and each time they breathe out, the balloon deflates.” You should continue this for about 30 seconds to three minutes, depending on the age and attention span of your child.

Balloon breathing

  1. Eat like a scientist: Focus at mealtimes, appreciate what you have, make healthy choices and be aware. When it comes to mealtimes, we often eat as fast as possible, without being aware of what we are doing or consuming. She suggests finding an item of food with your child and pretending to be scientists. “Take a moment to investigate what your food looks like. What colour is it? What shape is it? What else can you notice about the way your food looks? Next, let’s use our imaginary microscope. Looking really closely, can you see any patterns or lines on this food?” Explore it, taste, smell, touch and be open to this process.
  2. The grateful gaze: This next practice is a lot of fun. It helps your child to notice what they have to be grateful for, wherever they are. Tell them to take a moment to be still and focus on the breath in their belly. Now ask them to look around the space you are in. “Wherever you are, can they look around themselves with a grateful gaze? Can they name each of the things they can see that they’re grateful for?” It can be anything – clothes, food, furniture, friends, parents and brings awareness to thankfulness.

The grateful gaze

Afzal wisely concludes: “The world our children are growing up in is a world of distractions. They are continually told to “pay attention” and yet no one teaches them this crucial skill. This book shows you how to help them.”

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