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YOUNG MINDS Mindful Kids founder Julieanne Black Reel explains the amazing benefits of awareness

'I created Mindful Moe to help teach mindfulness to kids'

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Julieanne with her Mindful Moe dog (€45) that teaches kids how to live in the now

Julieanne with her Mindful Moe dog (€45) that teaches kids how to live in the now

Julieanne with her Mindful Moe dog (€45) that teaches kids how to live in the now

Could practicing mindfulness truly make your family unit a little healthier, happier and more robust?

Children's educator and founder of Mindful Kids Ireland, Julieanne Black Reel believes so.

"Mindfulness is all about awareness of the present moment, without judgement. We spend so much time ruminating over past experiences and worrying about the future, that we are rarely present. It's like our minds are hijacked," says Julieanne.

"We have about 70-80,000 thoughts per day. We also have a habit of internally and automatically narrating our successes and failures all day long. A lot of our self-talk is very critical, to the point that we bully ourselves - the 'I'm no good at', 'I look terrible', or 'I'm stupid' kind of thoughts. We're often not even aware that it's going on at all, but self-talk is powerful.

"Here we can take a step back and talk to ourselves the way we talk to friends. This allows us to notice our thoughts and feelings with acceptance, but without getting caught up in their storyline. Self-compassion grows which instils confidence and encourages self-esteem."

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Children learn by example so parents should first practice mindfulness themselves.

Children learn by example so parents should first practice mindfulness themselves.

Children learn by example so parents should first practice mindfulness themselves.

 

With 25 years experience working with children of all ages, Julieanne explains the clear and abundant benefits of practicing mindfulness. "It reduces stress and anxiety. It also reduces anger, and gives us the ability to self-regulate. It encourages resilience so children gain the ability to cope with everyday ups and downs.

"Concentration is also improved and therefore children learn better. Compassion for others is cultivated which improves relationships and instils a nurturing attitude toward all living things and the world around us. It also improves sleep."

The best way to teach a child to be mindful is to embody the practice oneself, advises Julieanne: "Have fun and make time to do whatever makes you happy.

"Meet with people, laugh, and be silly. Do things that energise and nourish you. Exercise your kindness and compassion in front of your child. Speak of yourself, them, and others in a kindly manner.

"Be considerate, honest, gracious, and forgiving, even in the face of conflict or challenge. This makes you feel good and is self-care - remember they will learn by your example."

Julieanne encourages parents consider mindfulness part of their self-care routine.

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"It is something that will enhance your own well-being and it is as simple as beginning with five minutes of formal meditation per day. There are lots of online resources available to help to get you started such as the Headspace or Insight Timer apps."

She also offers the following advice for parents introducing their children to the world of mindfulness.

"Encouraging children to engage their five senses in anything they do and encouraging them to pause in any moment and notice body sensations and emotions will help to train their minds to be in the present moment. It's important to talk to children about your own feelings and body sensations and validate their feelings when expressed.

"Toddlers tend to be naturally mindful, they explore everything in the moment. They use their senses to learn about the world around them. Ensuring children have time to do this is important, as is ensuring they get the chance to explore a variety of environments. Time is important for all ages - none of us like the feeling of being rushed.

"For example, maybe mornings are hectic in your house, and you spend your time hurrying your child to finish their breakfast. Instead, set your alarm a little earlier so that your child can focus all of their attention on their meal. Remember, engaging the senses is an informal mindfulness practice which makes positive structural and functional changes to the brain.

"Teddy on the Belly is a lovely mindful exercise you can do with your children. Lay down flat on the floor or bed in a quiet space. Place a teddy on your belly and ask your child to do the same. Ask your child to quietly observe the teddy for a few seconds. Your child will notice the teddy moving to the rise and fall of the belly. Ask your child to focus on this for a count of 5-10 breaths depending on age/ability and then share how they feel after doing so. This can be a nice bedtime routine to encourage calm before sleep.

"For older children, the breathing practice mentioned above is very effective, as is bringing awareness to the present moment by engaging the senses. Another beautiful and effective practice is the Loving Kindness meditation where you repeat words of kind intention toward others and yourself, instilling compassion for yourself and others.

"Daily gratitude practice together is also effective in helping you and your child to appreciate the good in life.

"My little Mindful Moe invention is also a beautiful talking soft toy that teaches mindfulness to children. He offers a fun and accessible way into mindfulness for children."

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