Meditation for Kids: Developing a Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit
Meditation is the process of slowing down the mind and body. It has long been known to be an important part of spiritual development. More recently, research has shown that it greatly impacts our minds and bodies as well. It has many health benefits such as reducing blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and creating a greater sense of self awareness. When we think of meditation we often relate this idea to something that adults participate in, but there are many reasons why children should also learn the practice of meditation.
Benefits of Meditation for Children
There are many benefits of meditation for children. First it teaches children to be aware of themselves. The way that their body feels during different situations and emotions that they are experiencing during these times. This awareness allows children to be productive rather than reactive in their response to these events in their lives. For example, instead of lashing out at someone by yelling at or striking them, children learn to breathe deeply and think about a responsible response to their anger or frustration.
If a child has an anxiety disorder or has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD), it teaches them how to slow their mind in order to focus their attention on completing the task at hand or relaxing enough to be able to enter a situation with more ease.
Even if your child does not face a diagnosed disability, it can help with a variety of situations that children encounter every day that can cause children to become anxious. For example, if your child is facing an important test or has to give a speech in front of a large crowd, reminding them to take deep breaths and relax using mediation techniques can help them. And what about bedtime? It can help make bedtime easier as you remind your child to relax their mind and focus on breathing. Meditation can be beneficial for everyone.
Breathing in Meditation
Breathing is the key to meditation. When you meditate, you are focusing on your breath. Teach children to breath in deeply and slowly through their nose. Help them to notice that as they do this, their chest will grow. Hold that breath for just a second and then slowly release the breath out through their mouth as their chest shrinks again. In the beginning, focusing their attention strictly on breathing is the most important. As your breathing becomes deep and regular, focus on quieting any distracting voices inside your head.
Guided Meditation for Kids
So what if you do not practice mediation and are not sure how to teach your child these relaxation techniques? No problem, you can learn and practice along with them. I promise that the experience will help you in your own life as you face situations that may cause some anxiety for you.
There are many ways that you can guide a child through a meditative experience. Here are a couple very simple ways of introducing children to mediation. Remember meditation is about breathing slowly and deeply while quieting the "noise" in your head.
- Close your eyes and relax your body. Focus on taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Picture yourself sitting on a beach with the sun warming your body. Imagine the waves rolling in to the shore and out back to sea. With each wave that crashes to the shore, breathe in. With each wave that rolls out, breathe out. With each breath in, quiet any noise that is in your head. Set it aside for after this special quiet time. Repeat this process and imagery for several minutes to practice.
- Think about the sun. Imagine that you are holding the sun in your hands. The sun is producing a beautiful ball of sunshine in your hands. As you are holding the ball of light, breathe in and out deeply and slowly. As you breathe out, imagine that the light is shrinking down. Once your ball of sunshine is about the size of a baseball, place that ball of light in your belly. Now allow the light to fill you up with positive thoughts and feelings. Feel the light radiate to every part of your body, both inside and out. As you are breathing, set aside any voices or thoughts that enter your head. Remember to keep your mind quiet. Even after this meditation, when you are feeling nervous or anxious or worried, picture that ball of light inside of you and let it fill you with positive thoughts.
If your children have a hard time quieting the "noise" in their heads. Tell them to put their thoughts on a shelf. After they have this special quiet time, they can go back to the shelf and get their thoughts again.
Changing the "location" that children envision during meditation is a great tool as well. Some children may enjoy picturing themselves on a beach while others may relate more to sitting under a tree and using the swaying of branches back and forth in the wind to help guide their breathing. Encourage them to find a place that is special or comfortable for them.
Concluding the Mediation
As the children end the mediation session, bring their minds back to a conscious state. Have them wiggle their fingers and toes, stretch their arms and legs, and slowly open their eyes. You may even want to have a conversation with them about what they thought of this quiet time and how their body felt. Ask them things like, did your body feel different? Were you able to quiet your mind and let your thoughts and body relax? This conversation will be helpful for your children to think about how to improve their experience next time.
Extending Meditation Experiences
As children begin to develop and perfect their breathing techniques, you can extend the meditation experience to longer periods of time with a more focused intent. Some ideas for a focused meditation experience can be to have children meditate about various feelings that they experience. They can also explore disagreements that they have had with others or why they feel that they are not good at something such as math or a particular sport. As their meditative skills become perfected, they can delve deeper into self awareness.
Tips to Remember for Meditation With Children
Here is a quick reference to mediation success for kids.
- Find a quiet place to practice the meditation. Make sure all external noise has been turned off unless it is part of the meditation process.
- Keep it short. Children will not be able to meditate for long periods of time. Start with 3-5 minutes and then build up to longer periods of time.
- Focus on breathing. Remember that this is the key to calming the body and mind.
- Play soft music if necessary. This would be one example of external noise that would be ok to include.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Although this is not necessary, it helps the body to relax if there is nothing constricting the blood flow.
- Sit on pillow. Again comfort is key here. Sitting on a hard surface may cause a distraction for children and take away from the process. Use a pillow or some other type of cushion to add comfort.