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In a new book, a Tufts staff psychologist gives a primer on raising children to focus on the present momentChildren generally tend to act quickly on their emotions, but by becoming calmer and more focused, Chris Willard says, they learn to control difficult emotions. In his new book, Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed (Parallax Press), Willard makes a case for a simpler, more grounded life, amid all the commotion.
The central idea of mindfulness, he says, is to bring a very focused awareness of the present moment into our everyday lives through things such as breathing exercises and actively listening to and observing the world around us. Studies have shown that children can learn to regulate their emotions and concentrate better with the aid of mindfulness practices.
Children generally tend to act quickly on their emotions, but by becoming calmer and more focused, Willard says, they learn to control difficult emotions. What Willard didn’t realize then was that he was practicing a common form of mindfulness—paying close attention to breathing. Another mindfulness exercise is to ask a child to listen carefully for about a minute and then name five sounds he heard while being quiet. Mindfulness can also help children—and adults—shift their point of view to focus on the positive instead of the negative. MANILA, Philippines - Mindfulness is a way of being that both adults and children can practice.

Recently, we came across an article in Time Magazine that talked about the benefits of mindfulness on children. Learning mindfulness in a group with their peers, they discover that they are not alone in their struggles, and have the opportunity to connect with others honestly and authentically in a safe space. An alarming number of children are being diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other self-destructive behaviours.
He suggests using specific mindfulness techniques to help children and teenagers pay more attention to the world around them—and maybe enjoy life a bit more.
Even children with attention deficit disorders have learned to concentrate better using these kinds of exercises. For example, if a kid’s feelings are hurt, mindfulness techniques may make him less likely to lash out at another child; adolescents might be less tempted to experiment with drugs. Children as young as four, he says, can be taught to breathe in and out in a conscious way, with a little visual help.
His next book is aimed at employing mindfulness in the workplace, to help make work meaningful. We know mindfulness can decrease stress and aggression, but that it can positively affect academic learning is a revelation!

Many children feel stressed from living in our fast-paced, media-saturated, multi-tasking world, and many are stressed about performing and succeeding. While the scientific research into teaching mindfulness to kids is in its infancy, it is beginning to provide a basis for the efficacy of this practice. It makes sense as mindfulness trains the child to silence distractions, be calm and concentrate, thereby heightening their capacity for learning. Children can do these five techniques (breathing, listening,expressing, moving and walking) for 5-10 minutes a day at different times: before school, before homework, or before bedtime. The study’s findings show that children who practiced mindfulness in a four-month period performed better academically, showed more positive social behaviors, were less aggressive, more optimistic, and less stressed than those who did not practice it.
This is better done with teenagers and young adults as it requires ore concentration and patience, but it can also be done with children.
I take all opportunities to… Read more I have been involved in working with communities, children and young people from diverse backgrounds for over ten years in a a variety of roles.

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