You’ve likely heard about meditation and how it’s good for you and has incredible benefits for everyone, but is it all hype and just a fad? Or is it really worth adding time to meditate to your routine?
Let’s take a look at what meditation is, why it’s worth it, and how you can actually get those wiggly kiddos to try it. I promise you’ll be happy you did!
Meditation is an ancient practice that has been used by cultures throughout the world for thousands of years. Although the how may be different depending on the group practicing, the goal is often the same.
Meditation helps us connect with our body and mind, as well as the deeper world we exist in. Regular meditation develops awareness of our thought patterns and how they drive our actions. If you practice consistently, you can change your thoughts and behaviors from a reactive state to a responsive state.
Being responsive instead of reactive gives us the space we need to see we always have a choice in how we’re thinking and acting.
Over time, we can learn to accept our thoughts and feelings and work through them so that we’re no longer driven by our big feelings and thoughts.
We still will experience problems and have big feelings arise – that’s life! – but we can remain much calmer and in control, able to handle whatever life throws at us, in a much healthier and more confident way when we have learned to meditate.
Meditation Is Helpful for Kids
Children are full of big emotions. As their brains are developing, they live in an emotional state that causes big responses. Their brains are also on overdrive, constantly trying to figure out the world around them. Meditation can teach kids:
- Awareness of their thoughts and what they’re feeling in their bodies
- Acceptance of their thoughts and feelings without judgment
- To use breathing exercises to regulate themselves and control their actions
How Do You Teach Kids to Meditate?
1. Set Expectations
The first step is to set realistic, attainable expectations. Kids like to move and their attention spans are often short. Sitting calmly and breathing is challenging and uncomfortable.
When we pause and just allow ourselves to be present, our minds take over and want us to start doing something. We start wiggling and trying to figure out how to get out of sitting there. Adults do this too!
So, to set ourselves up for success, we begin with small, short exercises and focus on just getting into the routine of it before we start expanding and adding on.
2. Where to Begin
Begin with the breath. Breathing gives us oxygen, which helps our brains function at their best.
Just ONE minute of focused, intentional breathing with your child will help you both develop the skill of pausing, bringing awareness to what’s going on in your mind and body, and feeding your brain oxygen so you can remain calm when you really need it – during tantrums, fights, and high emotional times.
Follow this script to help you get started:
“We are going to try a new practice called meditation. Have you heard of meditation? (Allow for their response) Meditation is simply taking time to slow down and breathe so we can connect with what’s going on in our bodies and minds, which are often very busy! We’ll do this together and it will be fun! We’re going to find a comfortable place to sit and we’re going to breathe together for one minute. We will do this every day at (state the time). As we get more comfortable, we’ll grow our time.”
I recommend setting a timer or ringing a bell after one minute has passed. Children are able to relax if they know the time is being watched and they’ll know when the time is up.
Here are two of my favorite breathing meditations to do with children. They offer a kinesthetic element, so the movement will help them as they develop this new skill.
1. Box Breathing
Box Breathing is simply moving your breath in a regulated way using the shape of a box. You can draw a box shape in the air with your finger. As you move your finger: up – you breathe in, across – hold your breath, down – breathe out, across – hold your breath. Repeat!
2. Finger Tracing
Just like it sounds, you trace each finger on your hand. As you trace up the finger, you breathe in. As you trace down, you breathe out. Repeat on each finger.
Other Ways to Teach Mediation
1. Guided Meditations
Kids often respond well to guided mediations, especially at night before bed. Check out Headspace for Kids (fee required) or the Meditation for Kids app ($1). A book with great guided meditations is Breathe Like a Bear. I highly recommend the audiobook version.
2. Reading Books
More and more books are being published about mindfulness and meditation for children. My absolute favorite book on this topic is Ziji by Torey Hayden and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Children really identify with the characters and how it’s explained. I also like I Am Peace by Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds.
3. Everyday Mindfulness
Meditation is a tool that we want to learn how to use in daily life, not just when we’re sitting quietly. We can do this through mindfulness. Mindfulness is essentially being aware of what we’re doing and when we’re doing it. Take any everyday activity (eating, dressing, brushing teeth, etc) and practice being completely present with each movement as you perform the activity. The connection you feel is powerful and calming!
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Just like with any skill we learn, meditation takes consistent practice. Try making meditation part of your daily routine by either listening to a meditation or practicing a breathing meditation.
What if you miss a day? No worries! The key is to start again. Always come back to meditate! As the practice becomes routine, you can begin to breathe for longer amounts of time and you can move to eyes closed, hands in the lap, and breathing in stillness.
The key is to keep mediation light, fun, simple, and short. You CAN do it and both you and your child will reap the benefits!