Most of us know that meditation can help with stress, depression and more. But as well as adult issues, meditation can also benefit kids, and if done together with their parents it can create a mindfulness space that enriches the whole family.
Meditation is becoming more important for each of us living in a world that’s increasingly online and often overwhelming. Children can be supported and empowered through meditation, growing up with more confidence, a better ability to focus, empathy, and compassion. Meditation can also lower anxiety and foster calm, while supporting them to be better able to handle their emotions.
Napoli, Krech & Holley (2005) reported, among other positive findings, that “the children showed significant decreases in both test anxiety and ADHD behaviors and also an increase in the ability to pay attention.” The benefits are clear and schools have even begun using meditation to “boost learning and ease stress”.
In the United States, 7% of children meditate, and that number can easily expand as we find ways to include kids in our own meditation practices. Children don’t have the same biases we do as adults. They tend to be more open to trying new things and when meditation is shared as a fun activity, without any pressure, kids will be curious.
One of the most important aspects of getting children excited to meditate is allowing them to say no. Anything that’s forced on us never feels like much fun. Let it be a game and an activity that they can join in as they are able.
The beauty of meditation is the many different ways it can be done, which leaves lots of creativity for kids to make it their own. It also lets parents keep it interesting by offering different tools and practices to see what each child resonates with.
Extensive research links show how meditation can be beneficial to adults dealing with addiction, anxiety, cancer, chronic fatigue or pain, insomnia, HIV, fibromyalgia and more. We know that meditation helps us calm down and ground, and we feel better after we do it. So, what’s the holdup? Oh, you’re busy with kids? Right.
That’s a lot to navigate when trying to find time to be quiet. Little ones aren’t usually as excited as adults about finding time to sit still. So, how can you get your kids to meditate with you?
Simple Meditation Practices for Kids
- Mindful Breathing: Focusing on the breath is a great place to start anyone’s meditation practice and kids are no exception. Guide them to sit as comfortably as possible either in a chair or on the floor. Invite them to gently close their eyes and simply breathe.
You can encourage them to think about how the breath feels, how it sounds, how it’s moving. Are they breathing in through their nose or their mouth? Can they slow their breathing intentionally and follow it in and out of their body? Let them play with the sensation of being present with their breath and how it feels.
- Mindful Listening: This is a practice that is fun to do outside. Allow the child to sit or stand on the earth and take in the sounds of nature. If they’re comfortable to close their eyes, this allows better focus on listening. Invite them to focus on their breath as they listen to the sounds. For smaller kids, simply listening and taking in the sounds around them with focus is a great practice.
Afterwards, check in with them. How does it feel to really listen? What do they hear? How does it feel in their body to be quiet and still?
Checking in before and after a meditation is a great way to create a container for their practice. It offers them the opportunity to share their feelings, or whatever comes up for them, in that moment. Closing with a check-in is a great way to acknowledge any changes they might be feeling. It also gives parents a wonderful way to stay connected with how your little one is feeling.
Some kids are great at sharing their feelings, but for others, meditation can be a way to offer them a safe space where they can be themselves and share without feeling pressure.
- Balloon Meditation: Once the child is comfortable and ready, ask them to breathe in through their nose for five counts. You can count for them while they inhale. Then hold their breath for three counts, and gently let it out through the nose for five counts.
- Full Body Stress Relief: This can help with sleep and relaxation. Try it before bedtime. Have your child gently tense their right foot and relax it; then their left foot and relax. You hold each tension for two breaths. Follow this throughout the whole body: ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, tummy, chest, arms, neck, and head.
Keep the practice slow and steady, breathing two breaths for each hold. At the end, refocus them on each area of their body that is now free of tightness. Encourage them to breathe gently into their body, dropping into the relaxation they’ve created through their practice. This can help clear physical tension as well as calm them down for sleep.
There are just a few simple ways to help kids get started with their very own meditation practice. You can get creative and invoke waterfalls of white light, or work with mantras or music. Just remember to keep it easy and simple. Be easy on yourself and on them. Let it be fun. Some days it’ll be a breeze, some days it won’t, but the practice remains and can make a lifetime of difference.
Be Consistent about Having Fun
Consistency creates a healthy habit, so have as much consistency in your meditation practice as you are able. That doesn’t mean you have to meditate at the same time every day or the same amount of time.
However, dropping in together for five minutes a day can become something you both look forward to. It may be that you can only find three minutes together in the car for your practice, so breathe together. Those minutes will begin to add up to a child who is able to be with their breath, and themselves, in a powerful, healing way.
Kids love to be included so bring them into your personal practice. Let it be something special that you share. Meditation is for everyone of all ages. Once a child is offered the opportunity to explore and play with meditation, you have given them one of the biggest personal tools of their life.
Bloom Post is a freelance writer, ceremonialist, teacher, and author of the books Shaman’s Toolbox: Practical Tools for Powerful Transformation and Plant Spirit Totems. For more information: www.BloomPost.com