Give your child the tools to handle stress, manage difficult feelings, and build self-esteem with these activities from Latino mindfulness experts.

By Lynya Floyd
October 16, 2020
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Priscilla Gragg

Kids can start meditating from preschool on, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

We all love to see kids running around and having fun and can worry if they’re too quiet. But it’s actually healthy for little ones to slow down, relax, and recharge, especially in the middle of a less-than-typical school year. One of the best ways to help them do that? Meditation.

In fact, research shows that mindfully processing thoughts and emotions improves grades and sleep, increases attention span, and can even lower blood pressure. And it is an especially valuable practice for Latino kids, who are more likely than their non-Latino peers to experience depression and other mental health issues. “Meditation enables kids to manage emotions and be present so they can better deal with whatever is going on in their lives,” says Jill Guerra, a Guatemalan-Mexican American mindfulness teacher in Oakland, California, and author of the upcoming children’s book When I Breathe Deeply/ Cuando respiro profundamente.

The best part: It doesn’t have to take a lot of work. You can help your kid find inner peace with these four quick exercises (each takes just minutes) that were specifically crafted with Latino children in mind. 

1. Love-Your-Skin Visualization

Eliminate the idea that one skin color is better than another with this activity, created by Andres Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican yoga teacher and cofounder of the Holistic Life Foundation, in Baltimore. “It’s impossible for kids to love others if they don’t love themselves first,” Gonzalez says. To start, have your child close their eyes and take three deep breaths, paying close attention to the sound of each inhalation and exhalation. Then lead them through the following spoken prompts: Think of something you like about your skin tone. Does it remind you of your favorite tía? Is it brown like caramel sauce? Picture someone in your family or community—a teacher, a neighbor, or a friend—who looks different from you, and think about why you appreciate and care for that person. Take a big deep breath, imagining that you are breathing in love as you inhale and breathing out love to the entire world as you exhale. 

You can do this visualization while styling your kid’s hair or looking in the mirror together as you get ready in the morning. “Just remember to avoid taking lots of pauses when you speak,” says Gonzalez. “If you give children too much time in between the different steps, they might get distracted with something else.” 

2. Gratitude Bubbles 

Whenever your child is having a bad day or needs a break, this bubble-blowing practice, developed by Adri Kyser, a Colombian-Venezuelan holistic wellness and meditation expert in Dallas, works great as a pick-me-up by getting them to zero in on the positive. All it requires is a bottle of bubbles! 

First, ask your kid to take a deep breath. You can say, “Make your belly as big as possible.” Next, have them blow a bubble as they exhale. And as it rises in the air, name something for which they’re grateful. Repeat this five or six times, as needed. And feel free to say thanks alongside your child to better model how it’s done. “Bubbles are a wonderful and inexpensive tool for focusing attention,” Kyser says. “Just the act of watching a bubble float up, up, and away gets kids to slow down and reflect on their blessings.” 

Priscilla Gragg

“Make meditation as fun as possible,” says Adri Kyser. “The moment you add too much structure, kids will lose interest.”

3. Poem Building

Empower children ages 7 and older to find their voice with this technique from Gonzalez, using a poem from educator Akeem Lloyd, which encourages self-expression. “Creating poetry is like writing in a diary,” Gonzalez explains. “It gives kids permission to open up more than they normally would.” 

Get in the creative spirit by having your kid say or write responses to some or all of the following sentences, which you can read aloud: 

I am… 
I am not… 
I will not… 
I am sad when I see… 
I love to… 
I struggle when… 
To make the world a better place, I will… 
My family means… 
My story will… 

Ask your child to share their poem when they finish, but don’t pry. Instead, pose open-ended questions, such as, “Would you like to talk more about what you said here?” And keep in mind that some kids will write one-word answers while others will write entire paragraphs. “The purpose is to help children express themselves, so it’s really up to them,” Gonzalez says. 

4. Body-Positive Scan 

It’s never too early to teach kids to value their body and what makes them unique, says Kyser. A body scan is an engaging way to do so without judgment. “Try it before bedtime to unwind or when kids need a confidence boost,” she says. Begin by having your child lie down or take a seat, close their eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Then ask them to say one positive thing about every part of their body, working all the way up from their toes.

“Whether you’re a beanpole or curvy, appreciating yourself—and saying it out loud—builds self-esteem,” Kyser says. Make the process interactive too. If your child says, “I like my legs,” encourage them to go deeper and explain exactly why. For example, “I like my legs because they allow me to run and play soccer.” Be flexible, though—if they fall asleep in the middle or can’t think of a reason they adore their elbows, roll with it. “Don’t get too hung up if they’re slouching or not following the rules,” Kyser points out. “If you start worrying about that, you defeat the purpose!” 

This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's October/November 2020 issue as “More Zen, Por Favor!”

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