Mindfulness is, at its most basic, the practice of being present in the moment, of acting instead of reacting. According to an 11-year old boy, mindfulness is “not hitting someone in the mouth.” While we laugh, his statement does speak to some of the core tenets of mindfulness: patience, tolerance for life’s frustrations, and the ability to manage strong emotions in high-pressure situations. These things are beneficial to people of any age, but can be especially helpful to children as they grow and learn to interact with the world around them.

But how do we teach our children to be mindful? Well, start out teaching by example. That doesn’t mean you have to sit them down and make them watch you meditate – it means that you need to have experience practicing mindfulness before you can teach it to your kids. Even if you don’t directly teach them mindfulness, your children will benefit from your personal practice – after all, once they see you pause and take a deep breath in a difficult situation, they’ll learn that they don’t always have to respond to stimuli right away, that they too can take a moment to gather themselves.

And if you do want to directly teach your children? Be sure to pick activities that resonate with them. The Yoga Journal has an interesting essay on age-appropriate meditation activities for children, and is certainly worth a read. Remember that not everything has to be directly about meditation – you can encourage observance by taking your children on a nature walk, or sitting out on the lawn enjoying the natural noises around you.

Remember, the most important part of teaching mindfulness is to not force it. You cannot force anyone to pay attention, and trying to may result in a negative backlash. Do the best you can, continue your own mindfulness practice, and help your children become the best people they can be.

To learn more about teaching your children mindfulness, read The Huffington Posts’s Stress-Less Parenting Club Series

Image Credit: Steve Ford Elliott