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How to Help Kids to Use Mindfulness Biblically

girl with hands over face- mindfulness christian child
Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

The practice of mindfulness is everywhere. It’s utilized in workplaces, sports teams, and in schools. Our kids are going to come face to face with this practice, and as Christian parents we need to educate and equip our children to think of mindfulness biblically so they can develop and exercise discernment and wisdom in this area.

What is mindfulness?

If you have ever driven five or more exits on the highway with little or no recollection of that experience, you know what mindlessness is. Mindfulness is its opposite.

Mindfulness has its origins in Buddhism. It is a meditative technique intended to bring the user into a place of calm, non-judgmental awareness of their internal and external state in the here and now. It’s sort of like an I-spy game for the mind and environment. You simply notice what you think, feel and experience in the present moment. Its purpose is to bring organization to a disorganized jumble of thoughts, feelings and sensory inputs, anchor you in the present moment, and create a sense of peace and calm.

What are some cautions for Christians?

1) Mindfulness is focused on self

First, mindfulness is self-oriented. It focuses completely on the personal experiences and observations of self. This emphasis on self is in alignment with the current norms of our culture so mindfulness’s popularity should come as no surprise.

However, as Christian parents, we know how important it is to teach our children that loving Jesus shows up as loving others as ourselves, seeking to be last instead of first, and embracing a posture of humility. This “other-orientation” is not about will-power or self-discipline. It’s an ongoing transformative work of the Holy Spirit. When we become a follower of Jesus, our old self was replaced by the sprit of Christ (Galatians 2:20) and we begin a life-long journey of being made into his likeness.

2) Mindfulness provides counterfeit peace

Secondly, the goal of mindfulness is a state of peace and calm. Proponents say when “done right” people can achieve a detached, non-judgmental state that radically accepts “what is” and have inner peace.

As Christians, we know that true peace cannot come from within. It can only come from the Prince of Peace. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Focusing on God, not self, is what brings true peace (Isaiah 26:3) and it is a kind of peace that surpasses all human comprehension (Philippians 4:7).

Can mindfulness be used biblically?

In theory, yes, mindfulness can be practiced from a biblical foundation. There is nothing in the Bible that would indicate that mindfulness as an exercise is sinful. In fact, there are Scriptures that indicate that we are to:

  • have a “steadfast mind” (Isaiah 26:3)
  • meditate on things that are true, noble, right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8)
  • “search our hearts and be silent” (Psalm 4:4)

Asaph asserted that he would “ponder” all of God’s works and “meditate” on His mighty deeds (Psalm 77:12). We also know that Jesus went away to lonely places to be with the Lord. He went to pray and to be present with His father.

Time alone with God, meditating on His word, talking to Him, asking Him to search our hearts are all very “mind-full” practices. We can employ this idea of being mindful in our quiet times with the Lord. And we can teach our children how to incorporate these ideas too.

How to help children use mindfulness biblically

1) Teach them about the omnipresence of God

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8). God is everywhere. If our children can grasp this theological truth, they will have a strong foundation for the following tips for inviting God into any mindfulness activities they are asked to do.

2) Equip them with emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is important. It can equip your child to be able to identify and articulate a wide range of feelings.

One of the practices of mindfulness is a non-judgmental observation of thoughts and feelings as if they are passing before you on a conveyor belt.

We can help our kids invite God into this activity by encouraging them to “think about what they are thinking about.” But as they notice their feelings and thoughts, help them recognize that they are standing shoulder to shoulder with God as it happens. He sees their thoughts and feelings – not in judgment but with mercy and compassion. These partnered observations with God can bring a sense of calm without the distortion of self-focus.

3) Teach them to pray mindfully

Our children can also use their observations of thoughts and feelings as a springboard to prayer. As your child notices what he is thinking and feeling, he can talk to God about it. For example, he can say, “God, I notice that I am feeling nervous. I know you see that too. Thank you for being with me in all of my feelings.” Instead of simply noticing alone, your child can realize that God notices too. The Bible says that Jesus was acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). He sees. He understands.

4) Help them practice gratitude

Another practice of mindfulness is to intently observe the details of the objects in your surroundings, pulling yourself back to that focus as your mind wanders. Your child can use this type of activity as an opportunity for gratitude. As your child looks around the room or the environment, he can thank God for what he sees. He can say something like, “Thank you for this home that keeps me warm. Thank you for the light that helps me see. Thank you for the picture of my family who loves me. Thank you for the trees outside that gives me air to breathe.” Gratitude is a sure-fire way to access the peace of God.

Note to parents

Your comfort level with this is personal. You may struggle to think in terms of “safe” mindfulness. If that is the case, you do not need to apologize or justify your convictions on this matter. Scriptures are very clear that if God has told us not to do something and we do it, it is sin (Romans 14:22-23). You can explain your convictions to your children honestly and openly and discuss how they might respond in situations where a mindfulness exercise is prescribed by a group or class they are in.

On the other hand, you may feel that your children will inevitably be faced with mindfulness exercises and want to be sure they are equipped and ready to participate biblically. It’s important to recognize that your children will need practice with these biblical foundations for mindfulness. You can model, role-play, and narrate your own biblically-based mindfulness exercises.

Extra cautions

You don’t want to create fear, but it is important to teach your children to be aware of any practices that are anti-biblical. Some examples are exercises that ask a child to:

  • empty their mind
  • chant or repeat a mantra or phrase that is not biblically based

When these things happen your child can simply abstain from participating or incorporate one of the biblically based tips above. You may want to role play this exchange so they would know how to respond in a class or group setting. It’s important to teach our children how to be loving and kind toward others who may think differently. We are called to be peace-makers and, in as much as it is within our power, to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

The world is full of opportunities for intentional Christian parenting. These opportunities need not be seen as a threat but as a chance for your children to grow deeper in their faith and develop a biblical world view. And by wisely gleaning some principles from mindfulness and applying them biblically, we can drawer nearer to God.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed therapist who offers individual and parent counseling to individuals in Connecticut. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married with a young adult son and a teenage daughter.

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