When I was in 5th grade, my class was assigned to write a short essay about our families, due the next day. That’s something that most kids would have no trouble with. You know your family—you know their names, their ages, what they look like, what foods they despise. But I, even though I knew those things, I wanted to write the best essay I had ever written. And I had a bad habit of doing that with all of my homework—I wanted it to be the best. Perfect, even.
And that’s how I found myself sitting at the dining room table crying, pencil in hand, unfinished essay before me, at 9 PM—my bedtime. I was distraught. What would my teacher think? Worse—what would my classmates think when I showed up to school with a measly, unfinished essay when they had all completed theirs just fine?
My dad sat down next to me. He asked me what was wrong, and I explained. I was determined to stay at the table as long as it took, if it meant I would arrive at school tomorrow without shame, finished essay in my backpack. He said, “The sun will still rise tomorrow if you don’t finish your homework.” I exhaled, we said goodnight, and I went to bed with a little less anxiety. (For the record, I finished my essay the next morning before school.)
As a kid I didn’t have a name for my anxiety. I wish I had known that what I was experiencing was 1) totally okay, 2) something that other kids struggled with, too, and 3) treatable. As an adult with anxiety, I often find relief through mindfulness. Kids can do it, too. In fact, kids would probably be better at it than I am.
You might not have anxiety about homework—perhaps you get anxious about other things. You may not feel very anxious at all. Either way, mindfulness is a tool you can use to come into the present, and you can even use it to help friends who experience anxiety.
Here are some resources that you can use to practice mindfulness yourself! If you saw yourself in my story, I hope you give it a try.
The Association for Library Service to Children compiles a list of Notable Children’s Digital Media each year. Here are a few apps to help you sleep on anxious nights:
Nighty Night. iOS/Andriod/Amazon. PreK
- A calming bedtime app, Nighty Night allows children to interact with the short story by turning off lights and putting animals to bed, accompanied by music and narration.
Moshi Twilight Sleep Stories. iOS/Android/Amazon. PreK/Parent/Caregiver
- Relax into bedtime with calming stories, specifically created to help children drift off to sleep with soothing music, audio effects, and narration.
Check out Teen Librarian Centi's list for books about mindfulness: