As parents, our one goal in life is to keep our kids happy and healthy. Unfortunately, it seems our little ones are feeling the effects of stress and anxiety at increasingly younger ages. One great way to combat the everyday stresses of life and to build your child’s inner strength and stability is through meditation.
I know what you’re thinking. “My kid sit still- and quiet?!- for more than 2 minutes? Yeah, right!” But integrating a meditation practice into your kids’ lives can be easier- and more fun- than you might think. There are lots of fun, creative ways to build both your child’s inner strength and awareness and your bond together as well.
But first, let’s look at some of the major benefits of meditation for kids.
Tame the Ever-Racing Mind
A child’s mind is usually soaring a mile a minute. Between the thoughts in their heads, the over-stimulating screen in front of their face and all the new sights and sounds around them, there is a lot going on inside their little heads! At such a young age, it can be difficult to express the feelings and thoughts racing around within their mind. This can lead to outbursts of emotions, acting out physically or other seemingly uncalled for reactions.
When there is any stress or tension in the mind, our thoughts tend to race. A child struggling to understand these unpleasant feelings may act out because they can’t communicate their thoughts or feelings well enough yet. Meditation is a healthy “timeout” from any stress or tension your child may be feeling and helps to enable them to better process what they were feeling or wanting to convey. As their mind calms and quiets a bit, those outbursts will begin to disappear.
Support Emotional Stability and Development
During the developmental stages of childhood, we often see kids overreacting with tantrums and tears and even hitting. This is largely in part due to their inability to fully understand and convey their emotions. They also have not mastered the art of patience just yet.
Meditation helps children to better cope with their feelings of frustration or fear, or whatever overwhelming feeling they are having. It allows their mind to rest and briefly let go of the stressors that are upsetting them so they are not so overwhelmed by it all. This gives them a far better chance of communicating what is causing their distress so it can be alleviated.
|Teaching Our Kids Mindfulness Through Meditation|
|reduced stress levels|
|improved sleep quality|
|greater self awareness and confidence|
|better emotional stability|
|greater sense of compassion|
De-Stress the Body and Mind
When we are fully engaged or focused on a particular activity or event, our mind doesn’t have the chance to feel anxiety or worry or fear. A child can’t be focused on their belly moving as they breath and simultaneously worry about whether the kids in class like them. Meditation is a wonderful way to pull your child away from their negative or simply overwhelming thoughts and draw them back to a calm sense of self. This helps to bring about inner confidence, clarity and creativity.
Mindfulness: Being Present
Mindfulness is the ability to focus your awareness on the present moment, letting go of the things you need to do in an hour or what happened at the store earlier this morning. This simple act of being present, aware and focused proves quite challenging for most adults. Instilling this quality in your child at an early age will help curb impulsivity, reduce anxiety and lead to a happier, more well-balanced child.
Treatment for ADHD
A study done at the National Therapies Research Institute in Sydney, Australia showed what they considered a “significant improvement of the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)” amongst children ages 4-12 treated for 6 weeks with meditation in conjunction with their normal care routine.
Other benefits included:
- 50% of children on stimulant medication either discontinued or reduced their medication
- Improved behavior at home and school
- Improved relationship between children and parents
- Better self esteem
Integrating Meditation Into Your Child’s Routine
I get it. Kids are going to be kids. They are not going to just plop down and start mindfully meditating. (Most of us adults can’t even do that!) Most experts will recommend starting with 1 minute per year of age, starting around 6-8 years old, but you know you child best. They may be ready to start earlier or sit still for longer. Go with what works for your little one.
Meditation is all about creating mindfulness, the ability to be present, focused and aware. This does not have to be done by sitting still. Here are some other great ways to start easing a meditation practice into your family’s everyday routine.
Yoga is great because it involves movement, but still has a focus on breathing. It is like a moving meditation, creating awareness in your body and your breath. Consider starting with a simple sun salutation routine you can do together as a family. Remember to focus on even breathing as you move.
Breathing exercises are amazingly calming for children and adults alike. They can be helpful in capturing a child’s attention, feeling or listening to their breath, thinking about how it feels as it travels in and out. Here’s a couple options to try.
Alternative Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana): This technique helps to connect the right (emotional) and left (logical) hemispheres of the brain, allowing children to better communicate and understand their emotions.
Belly Breathing (Ujjayi): Deep belly breaths followed by an audible exhale help to calm the body and mind. Feeling the movement of their belly and hearing the sounds of their breath help to keep kids’ attention and focus during this breathing exercise.
Sitting still, allow your child to use their imagination to visualize their thoughts. Each one could look like a cloud blowing through the sky as it passes. Or maybe they focus on a part of their body, imagining magical fairy dust being poured all over it. Let them think about how that feels as the fairy dust travels over their feet, their legs, their belly and so on. This is a great technique for creating body awareness and also gives them something to focus on while sitting so still.
More Meditation Ideas For Kids
The options are endless and it really depends on your child. You know them best, so don’t be afraid to try something else. Things like using a meditation bowl and having your child focus on the sound it makes, letting you know when it’s disappeared from their ears could be a great introduction to focus and awareness. Giving your little guy or gal a gentle massage and letting them think or even tell you how it feels creates body awareness, a sense of calm and a connection among the two of you.
Integrating meditation into your family’s routine can be much easier than you think. It will take some time and some creativity, but the benefits are so far-reaching. Make it something fun and enticing so your kids will want to carry this practice into their adult life.