Meditation & Kids: You Can Teach Kids to Find Their Inner Peace
A handy guide on how to introduce meditation and mindfulness in children.
During the recent cave rescue in Thailand, an interesting nugget of information came out. The coach of the 12 young footballers who were trapped in a cave for almost three weeks, taught the boys how to meditate. The rescuers believe Buddhist meditation helped the children stay calm and positive through the entire ordeal.
While that was an extreme situation, can meditation help kids get through the stresses of their daily lives?
Yes, meditation is just not for stressed and overwhelmed adults, but also for today’s kids who are sailing in the same boat.
Kids lead busy lives. They attend school; go for private tuitions, attend hobby and sport classes; with a huge pressure to excel in every sphere. Not to mention the fluctuating dynamics during preteens and teenage years, which brings tremendous study load, peer-pressure, and struggles with parents.
Kids today are tired physically, mentally and emotionally. They need the opportunity to relax and unplug literally and figuratively from distraction, overload of information and constant activity.
Signs of Stress
If a kid is restless, unable to focus, fidgety, angry, doesn't eat or craves certain food, suffers from disturbed sleep pattern and mood swings, it is probably stress.
In this scenario, meditative or contemplative practices can calm the mind and enhance well-being.
Meditation Practices for Kids
Kids are energetic, active and restless. It is difficult to make them sit still. Introducing meditation practices gently and for shorter duration in school or at home is beneficial. There are many online resources, videos and audio available for kids. Parents can download guided meditation specially designed for kids according to their ages.
Here are few practices for kids to explore:
These practices teach kids to concentrate on an image, body sensation, a thought or word. Some examples are focusing on prayer or a mandala, on breath, repeating a mantra, and transcendental meditation.
Mindfulness means being aware and present in any given moment. Mindfulness practices help in reducing worry or anxiety. Jon Kabat Zinn, American professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, says in his book, Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness-
We take care of the future best by taking care of the present now.
Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel, Jon Kabat-Zinn (Foreword), Myla Kabat-Zinn (Narrator), is a great resource to introduce kids (ages 5-12) to simple meditation practices that help in emotional well-being.
Movement Based Practice
Slow movement with breath awareness can help restless kids. These practices include yoga, Tai chi and Qi gong. These are good for restless kids who find it hard to be still, or focus. These practices guide them to move and place their attention on the action which helps to relax.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving kindness, also known as Metta, is a simple practice of directing good wishes towards yourself and others. Barbara Lee Fredrickson, American professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina who has extensively studied the effect of practicing loving kindness meditation says that it increases positive emotions and decrease negative emotion. It helps kids to have self-compassion and kindness.
HeartMath Institute, an international non-profit research and education organization, offers tools and programs to reduce stress, regulate emotions to be healthy and happy. They have easy practices for all ages.
Research on the benefits of meditation says that short, yet regular practice helps to calm emotions by providing rest to the body and mind. Experts believe that it is also beneficial for those with ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety; school performance, social problems, sleep and behavioural problems.
Taking small consistent steps can help kids to create a practice system. The duration and frequency depend on the age. For pre-schoolers, few minutes per day are enough, while older kids do well with 3-10-minute practice twice a day. Teenagers can create their own practice schedule ranging between 5-45 minutes a day.
Kids learn by example. Create a meditation corner in your home and start meditating. Your kid will soon follow you.
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