Youthrive Integrated Therapy Services

Youthrive Integrated Therapy Services

By Mellissa Hooper, Youthrive Psychologist


If your child is struggling to focus at home, school or otherwise you could try teaching them basic steps to mindfulness. This does not necessarily mean meditation or yoga; instead it can be small changes made to their day to day routine.

What is mindfulness?

We have all heard the iconic saying ‘stop and smell the roses’, this really sums up what it means to be mindful. Mindfulness is about connecting with ourselves and the world around us. This requires us to slow down and pay full attention to what we are doing in the present moment. Rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future, when we are mindful, we are focused on the here and now.

What are the health benefits of mindfulness?

A wealth of research suggests that the benefits of mindfulness for both adults and children stems from working directly with the nervous system helping to;

  • Improve attention
  • Improve self-control
  • Lower anxiety and stress
  • Increase positive moods
  • Facilitate better decision making
  • Improve emotional regulation
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Improve behaviour

How to implement mindfulness into your child’s routine?

There are many wonderful ways in which we can implement mindfulness into our children’s routines. Your child may already be participating in mindfulness exercises such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises at school, however there are many other ways for a busy family to practice of mindfulness in the home.

Mindfulness through sensory experiences

 Listening – take some moments throughout the day to really stop and listen to the sounds around you. Make a game of it with your children. Whether you’re playing outside on a beautiful day or doing homework at the kitchen table, ask your kids to stop and listen silently for a few minutes to the sounds around them, then ask them to share what sounds they discover. Did they hear a car off in the distance, the rustling of leaves on the tree outside, the neighbour down the street mowing their lawn, their own breath falling in and out?

Touching – As parents, we know that touch can sometimes calm our child’s wildest emotions. A big hug, being wrapped up in a favorite blanket, patting the beloved family pet. Being immersed in the ‘feel’ of something brings our attention to the here and now. Try playing a guessing game with your children where they close their eyes and see if they can guess what objects are just by touching them. Your child will be focused on the tactile experience and the happiness that comes with being emersed in the present moment.

Smelling – you may have tried putting a few drops of lavender on your child’s pillow at night to help them sleep or using aromatic bath oils to help with relaxation. When we slow down and pay full attention to the smells around us or a particular scent, we may notice certain feelings that arise or may be reminded of special memories. Next time it rains ask your child to tune in to the smell of the fresh earth. It could bring up certain feelings or memories they wish to share.

Looking – Take your children on a journey of discovery! Although your children may have spent many hours in the backyard, there is always something new to discover, if we take the time to LOOK. Ask your children to go on an expedition and try to spot something that they have never noticed before, that may have been right under their noses. Paying full attention to what is around them, your children may spot a rusty nail in the garage door, a bird nest high in the tree, or many other wonderful discoveries. Focusing on what we are looking at in the here and now improves focus and attentional control and leaves no room for revisiting past troubles or considering future worries.

Tasting – What is the last thing your child ate? Are they able to tell you what it felt like, what the texture was, was it sweet or sour, chewy or crunchy? If we can slow down while enjoying a meal we might notice a whole world of different tastes and textures. At your next meal, ask your kids to really pay attention to eating their food slowly (mindful eating) and share with you what they discover.

Here are some other tips to keeping your child focused

  • Movement breaks – moving your body helps to increase oxygen to the brain which makes focus and learning easier
  • I Spy Books – encourage your child to selectively attend to materials and focus on identifying and finding objects, letters and colours
  • Use a To Do List or a Visual Schedule – Keeping information in mind can be hard for kids. Make a To Do list or Visual schedule to help them keep on track.
  • Set a timer –some kids struggle to focus and attend for long periods of time, setting a timer for ‘time on task’ can help to keep them on track and offer alternative ‘down time’.