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Calming anxious, young minds

Psychologist, author and podcaster Paul Bushell talks mindfulness in a fun way, helping parents support their children’s search for sustainable happiness

With more than 80 activities designed to be simple, hands-on and fun,  Paul Bushell’s latest #raisingMINDFULkids is a practical and inspiring way for adults and children to mutually explore and develop various mindfulness techniques.

‘There is no right or wrong way of doing this book and adults are encouraged to keep it handy, as a resource for inspiration, growth and on-going practice’, he says while also sharing some insight into how, through mindfulness, you can equip your children with tools to build self-esteem, manage stress and skilfully approach challenges.

‘The last two years have been a tragic example of what a constantly changing world can look like. It has also been a tough introduction to what rapid and unexpected change can sometimes feel like. For many of us, it’s a worry that childhood anxiety and depression is on the increase, so it’s important that we find ways to help children with these big feelings, and more specifically give them the tools to help themselves.’

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Paul says mindfulness practices are techniques and exercises that connect our brain, body and self with the here and now, with kind acceptance. This redirection of focus on the present is useful in managing thoughts, feelings and behaviours and is relaxing and restorative.

‘By pausing, acknowledging, observing and understanding our thoughts and feelings we are able to make better decisions about what to do with them. These slowed down moments allow us to get back on top and take control from our racing thoughts and feelings.’

One of the best ways to learn and teach mindfulness to children is to be mindful together. These practices, which can be taught and are useful to children of all ages, don’t need to be long or complicated. They should be enjoyable moments that don’t feel like a chore or punishment.’

‘It is important to remember that all children are different and at different stages of their development. These moments might not be longer than a minute or two, but that is more than enough.  Don’t forget to praise any attempt to be still and present. It is also okay to laugh and make mistakes along the way. The more we practice these techniques, the easier it is to use them when dealing with big feelings’, he says.

You’ll find #raisingMINDFULkids online at bushell.co.za, Moki, Thrive and Takealot for R300. Details: Follow Paul on IG: @paulbushellwellness

10 simple steps for you and your child to practice a mindful moment:

  • Create a safe, quiet space and time.
  • Get comfortable, either sitting or lying down in a comfy position.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Take the lead as a role model being focused and still.
  • Gently talk your child through the experience.
  • Start by taking a few deep breaths in and out, focusing all your attention on your breathing. Repeat this a few times.
  • Place your hands on your chests, and redirect your attention to the rise and fall of your chests. Stay focused here for a moment.
  • Move your focus to your heart beats, paying special attention to the rhythm of your heart beat and how it gently slows down the more relaxed you become.
  • Remind yourselves that when your mind wanders to other distractions, you can gently bring it back into focus.
  • Gently open your eyes and smile at one another.
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