I am a pediatrician. I often work with children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Medication often can help. But there are other ways to help too. One is mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
The idea of mindfulness is to focus on what is going on in the moment, on purpose, with no judgement (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).
Research shows that these activities can help children with ADHD. This includes the following.
- Focusing on important thoughts while ignoring others.
- Help with the behaviors that get children into trouble.
- Help with control over their emotions
How Can Parents Teach This To Their Children
There are lots of ways to learn to be more mindful. One activity may work well for your child and others may not. You might have to try more than one thing with your child.
Some schools teach mindfulness activities. But not every school does. There are classes, such as children’s yoga, that can teach these skills. However, classes can be costly and hard to find. Below are some tools for parents. Many can be done at home.
Yoga is a good way to help an active child focus. For young children, I like books that show simple poses.
- Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story, by Mariam Gates. This book has beautiful pictures. It reminds children to breathe while doing simple poses.
- My Daddy is a Pretzel, by Baron Baptiste. This is a book that shows yoga poses in a story about what adults do for work.
- Yoga Cards work well with the above book. They teach the poses in more detail.
Older children and teens should start with a live class. This is to make sure:
- their form is correct;
- they learn how to change a hard pose to make it work for their body; and
- they know which poses should not be tried alone at home.
This helps lower the chance of injury. You should always talk to your child’s doctor before starting a new exercise program.
There are low-cost options for yoga. These include non-profit studios and community classes. These options will be different based on where you live.
Once children know how to do yoga safely, they can use online videos. There are free classes on YouTube. Do Yoga with Me is a free website.
Breathing exercises can also aid a child. These can help calm and focus the mind. Many only take a few minutes.
Common Sense Media has a list of apps for children. You can sort them by age.
These are some ideas that can be done without technology.
- The Huffington Post has a blog on simple ways to teach mindfulness to kids.
- You can also try some mindful games to help children focus.
More info on the research behind mindfulness and ADHD is discussed in the article Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York, NY: Hyperion.