Cultivating Kindness and Compassion

Mindfulness is paying attention here and now, with kindness and curiosity, and then choosing your behavior  Amy Salzman. The non-judging aspect of kind attention allows us to be with things as they are, even if we don’t like it. This awareness moves us out of resistance and opens us to compassionate choices.  Children resonate intuitively with the concept of kind and curious attention. An upset child can be coached to be mindful of her feelings.  For example, she might be angry because her friend played with someone else at recess. Mindfulness invites her to notice her angry feelings with curiosity and respond to the hurt with kindness.  She can then choose to respond to her friend with more compassion, instead of reacting unkindly from hurt feelings.

UntitledEssential skills of kind and curious attention can be cultivated to promote children’s social and emotional learning.

Recommended Books

Visiting Feelings, Lauren Rubenstein (author) and Shelly Hehenberger (illustrator), 2014.  Gold Medal Mom’s Choice Awards book for children.  Beautifully descriptive prose and delightful illustrations help children explore their emotions with their senses and nurture a sense of mindfulness.  Visiting Feelings invites children to sense, explore, and befriend any feeling with acceptance and equanimity. Gaining this objectivity allows space for a more considered response to the feelings.

A Still Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult EmotionsAmy Saltzman, 2014.  A clear, insightful, step-by-step guide to nurture children’s emotional awareness, kindness, and compassionate responsiveness.  Amy is recognized as a visionary and pioneer in the fields of holistic medicine and mindfulness for youth.  She is founder and director of the Association for Mindfulness in Education.

For more resources, please see our website: Teaching Mindfulness Practices to Children and Teens.

Upcoming Events – Sponsored by the Center for Child and Family Well Being (CCFW), University of Washington

Free Public Lecture:  Cultivating Kindness and Compassion in Children
December 5, 2014.  7:00 pm – 8:30 pm.  Kane Hall, UW
Registration required (closes 12.5.14). Please register here.
Dr. Schonert-Reichl, professor at the University of British Columbia, will review groundbreaking research around the importance of promoting children’s and adolescents’ social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools, describing how recent innovations in developmental neuroscience can inform these efforts. She will address SEL initiatives in Canada and the US and highlight her own recent research on evaluating MindUP – a program developed from research and theory in the fields of developmental neuroscience, mindful attention awareness, SEL, and positive psychology.

Professional Training: Mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom
December 6
, 2014. 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.  CCFW.
Registration required (closes 12.5.14). Please register here.
Molly Lawlor, M.A., primary author of MindUp and a trainer for the program, will speak to the role of mindfulness in education, specific to social and emotional learning and self-regulation. She will provide experiential learning with guided mindfulness practice. Concepts will be expanded to discuss practical tools for children and adolescents and how these can be implemented within the classroom context. Molly is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia.


Visting Feelings Graphic NovMindfully coaching a young child

This example is at the application level and is based on prior experience with the practices of: kind and curious attention, mindful breathing, and noticing feelings.  Do when a child is mildly or moderately stressed, not during a full-blown meltdown!

Adult is at eye level with the child and speaks gently and softly.


Cultivating Curiosity

Adult:  I notice by the way your forehead looks frowny and your jaw looks tight, that you might be feeling upset.  What’s going on?
Child:  Sarah and Kari wouldn’t play with me at recess.
Adult:  How are you feeling?
Child:  Mad.
Adult:  (Express empathy) I understand.  Sometimes when I think my friends are ignoring me, I feel mad too.  Would you like to bring your kind and curious attention to how you are feeling right now?
Child:  OK. (If the child says “no,” accept her answer and invite her to sit quietly and “just be a friend to your mad feelings for a while.”)
Adult:  Notice where your mad feeling is in your body.
Child:  My stomach hurts.
Adult:  Does your mad feeling have a color or sound?
Child:  It’s red and has a yelling sound.
Adult:  Good noticing.  Do you notice anything else?
Child:  I kind of feel like crying.
Adult:  Where is that crying feeling in your body?
Child:  My eyes.
Adult:  Does your crying feeling have a color or sound?
Child:  It’s sort of purple and quiet.
Adult:  Excellent noticing.  

Cultivating Kindness

Adult and child do mindful breathing together; breathing slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth:

Let’s breathe together and send kind attention to your feelings.
Breathing in, we send kindness to the mad feelings in your stomach…
Breathing out, we rest…
Breathing in, we send kindness to the crying feelings in your eyes…
Breathing out, we rest…

Cultivating Compassion for Self and Others

Adult:  Is there anything else your mad and crying feelings want from you?
Child:  A hug.
Adult: Would you like to give yourself and your feelings a hug?
Child:  Nods and hugs self.
Adult:  It feels good to be kind to yourself.  What might help you to be kind to Sarah and Kari?
Child:  Maybe ask them nicely if they would play with me.
Adult:  That would be helpful.  If they say “no,” what would help you the most?
Child:  Find someone else that is lonely and play with them.
Adult:  Those are excellent ideas.  You are very kind to your friends.

9551354_sKind attention leads to kind acts and compassion.

“Kindness in words creates confidence.  Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.  Kindness in giving creates love.”
— Lao Tzu.
Every act of kindness makes the world a better place.