For many of us, living on autopilot means we develop unhelpful habits of reacting to the challenges and stressors that arise in our everyday lives. Changing how we respond to these challenges requires that we’re aware of how we’re reacting in the first place. For children, learning to respond to their experiences more skillfully and mindfully often requires the support of an adult.
A simple way to help children move from autopilot to mindfulness is by using “stop and notice” language at home or in the classroom. This prompt invites children to bring non-judgmental observation and awareness to their own behavior - and at home or in the classroom, there are countless opportunities:
Stop and notice, are you keeping your hands to yourself?
Stop and notice, if you’re listening to the instructions?
Stop and notice, is your body settling down for bed?
Stop and notice, what's happening in your body?
Stop and notice, can you name how you feel?
Stop and notice, the volume of your voice.
Stop and notice, how fast you’re eating.
Stop and notice, are your eyes on me?
Stop and notice, your energy level.
Stop and notice, are you on task?
Stop and notice, your posture.
Using "stop and notice" language is an intentional way for adults to respond to behavior. Too often we automatically tell children to change their behavior. Inviting them them to stop and notice instead helps build self-awareness and can provide them with a sense of agency in their own actions and behaviors. When we learn to stop and notice what’s actually happening in the present moment we’re more informed and are more capable of shifting to a more mindful and helpful response.
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Jen Rapanos, LMSW, RCYT is a child and adolescent psychotherapist working in private practice and the owner of Well-Bean, LLC.