It may be difficult to imagine your infant, one- or two-year old learning to be mindful of how they are feeling, both physically and emotionally.
But the truth is, your child’s youngest years are a critical period for learning mindfulness–“the process of actively noticing new things,” according to Harvard professor Ellen Langer.
Believe it or not, your little ones are more than capable of developing this critical life skill which is proven to bring more joy to our lives no matter what age we are!
The new year is a wonderful time to set a fresh intention as a parent. In 2020, I encourage you to help your infant or toddler grow in mindfulness with two simple strategies:
You are your child’s most important role model. They’re listening to what you say, noticing the tone of your voice, and learning from your facial expressions.
Even if your child is still non-verbal, tell them how you are feeling in response to their immediate environment. For example, you might say, “I feel happy being here with you!” Seeing the smile on your face and hearing the tone of your voice will help your little one begin to learn how to recognize and express emotions as they happen.
Teach them body awareness.
Your child may be too young to learn intentional breathing exercises, or understand the meaning of “self-awareness.” But they are certainly not too young to notice what they are feeling in their bodies.
As your child is having different sensory experiences–such as taking a warm bath or touching the soft fur of a beloved pet–guide them with questions. “Does that feel warm?” “Is that soft?” You can gently guide your child’s hand to feel surrounding textures and temperatures, and to closely pay attention to what is happening in the present moment.
It’s never too early.
Ultimately, the earlier you teach your child mindfulness, the better.
Mindfulness is one of the core foundations to becoming emotionally intelligent–able to identify and manage one’s own emotions, and recognize and manage the emotions of others.
As your very young child gets a head start on learning to be mindful of their physical and emotional responses to what’s happening around them, they’ll also grow in emotional intelligence–setting them up for success in young childhood, teen years, adulthood, and beyond!