Yoga for Kids

This Is the Mindful Guide to Identity We Wish We Had Growing Up

A new book from Mallika Chopra teaches kids mindfulness and helps them embrace their unique stories.

We all know that mindfulness can help us be present and feel less stress. But mindfulness is also important for kids. An  emerging body of research shows that in children, being mindful improves cognitive focus and emotional regulation.

Many schools teach mindfulness to kids, but if you want to help teach it to your children, grandchildren, or neighbors, there’s a new kid-centric book on mindfulness: Malika Chopra’s Just Be You: Ask Questions, Set Intentions, Be Your Special Self, and More. Designed for kids ages 8-12, Chopra’s book—her third for children—helps kids understand the importance of self-reflection, setting intentions, and being of service. Here’s a sneak peek: 

Your life is influenced by many things: your family, race, religion, and nationality; where you live; and how much money your family has. You may feel judged by others by the way you look, by your gender and race, or by the clothes or shoes you wear.

Deep down inside, you may feel different from the labels that people put on you. For example, others may see you as a boy or girl. But you may feel differently. Some kids look like one gender, but they realize they don’t fit the definition of how others see them.

People may see you as Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, or mixed race. But you may identify instead with a specific culture, religion, or country.

You may say:

  • I am Puerto Rican. I am Japanese. I am Punjabi. I am Persian. I am French.
  • I am Indian and Chinese American.
  • My parents came from Guatemala, but I am from California. I am Hispanic American.
  • I am Muslim. I am Christian. I am Jewish. I am a Hindu. I am Zoroastrian.

You may come from a big family, or you may be an only child. You may always be seen as the little sister or the middle child. And, because of this, people may treat you differently from how they treat your siblings.

You may be homeless or live in a foster home. When others find out, they may make assumptions about your happiness or what you can accomplish.

You may be an athlete or musician or dancer or martial artist. You may be known as a nerd or a jock or the popular kid. Maybe you feel as if no one even knows who you are. Depending on the role you play at school, other kids may treat you in a certain way.

Always remember that you are more than what others assume about you. Don’t let anyone else put limits on what you can do, how you think, or how you want to express yourself.

The real you is the one who takes their unique life circumstances and then questions, explores, pushes, and strives to be their best.

Why Am I Different?

You are different from everyone else in the world.

You look different from others. It may be the color of your skin or your eyes, the texture of your hair, your weight, or your height.

You sound different, too. The sound of your voice, your accent, or how you use language is yours alone.

You move in a way that is unique to you. You have your own way of walking, running, and dancing. You may have a physical disability. Your posture and physical presence are unique.

You make different choices in what you eat, what you wear, what music you listen to, and what you choose to do with your time.

Even if you are a twin or triplet (quadruplet or quintuplet!), you know that you are your own unique person.

Your thoughts are your own, and you choose how to express yourself.

Always remember: Differences make the world vibrant, fun, and interesting!

You may feel nervous about sharing your thoughts and feelings with others because you feel differently from how they feel. You may be scared that people will get mad or not love you the same way if you share how you are really feeling. Remember: even if you feel different, others are different too. There are people in this world who will appreciate your differences—you just may need to find them.

Sometimes it can feel really lonely and scary to be different. Perhaps you:

  • are the only person of color in your school
  • speak a different language at home than your friends
  • think you are the only gay person in your class
  • are the only girl on the school robotics team
  • come from a family that doesn’t have as much money as everyone else you know

Sadly, sometimes differences are used as a reason to bully people and make them feel excluded or ashamed.

If someone is teasing you about your differences, it can be very difficult in the moment to remember that they are probably doing this because they are scared themselves. Only the weak bully others, and only those who are insecure about who they are tease others. Try to find a trusted adult—maybe even someone outside your family—to confide in if you are feeling scared about expressing your differences and especially if you feel threatened by anyone.

If you are the one suspicious of someone else because they are different, ask yourself why you feel this way. Take a moment to realize that you will be stronger and more interesting if you learn their story and become their friend and ally.

Try to shift feelings about being different to celebrate the uniqueness of you and others in your life! You can find different ways to process your feelings. Perhaps it is writing a song or painting or dancing. Or you can explore theater or poetry, playing an instrument, or drumming to express what’s inside of you.

Exercise: What’s My Story Today?

Time Needed: As long as you want, over and over again!

Location: Anywhere

Materials Needed: Paper, paint, crayons.

Instructions:

Everyone expresses their story differently.

Some like to speak or sing. Others prefer to write or draw. And some simply want to dance.

In whatever form you wish, express today’s story. You could start with your name, where you live, what you like or dislike, what you’ve been doing today, or what you are planning to do later. You may even want to include a dream from the previous night or a goal for what you wish to be in the future (these too are part of who you are today).

Be honest with yourself when it comes to what you feel good about, and when something arises that may feel uncomfortable, take a deep breath and go back to the feeling of be-ing.

Remember that you are the one telling this story.

If you chose to waver into an imaginary space with your story, go for it!

Part of creating a life you want is including the magic that you want to feel inside. Your imagination can help you feel it today.

You get to choose the words, colors, actions, feelings, and memories to be a part of your story.

You are the perfect and only storyteller for your unique story!

Just Be You: Ask Questions, Set Intentions, Be Your Special Self, and More 

Reprinted with permission from Just Be You: Ask Questions, Set Intentions, Be Your Special Self, and More © 2021 by Mallika Chopra, Running Press Kids.

About the author

Mallika Chopra is a mom, media entrepreneur, author and public speaker. She is the author of several illustrated books on mindfulness for kids: Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement and More and Just Feel: How To Be Stronger, Happier, Healthier and More. This year she will launch two new mindfulness books for children: Just Be You: Ask Questions, Set Intentions, Be Your Special Self, and More (the 3rd of the Just Be Series) which is out now, and a picture book for younger kids called My Body Is A Rainbow: The Color of My Feelings.

In Living With Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy, Mallika shares insights she gained while seeking meaning and balance as a mom and entrepreneur who felt she was overwhelmed by work, family and too many responsibilities.

Mallika has taught meditation to thousands of people, and is currently a mindfulness consultant for the animated series, Stillwater, on Apple TV+. She enjoys speaking to audiences around the world about intention, balance and living a life of purpose.