Yes! Right off the bat, the answer is yes.
Parents make every effort to teach their children good hygiene and healthy habits; for example, brushing teeth twice a day, eating vegetables, drinking lots of water, sleeping early, and wearing sunscreen. We also teach children how play nice, and to have good manners, but usually with the subtle connotation that it is the right thing to do for the sake of the other, and not for themselves.
If we are so eager to teach the young how to live well and behave properly, why do we never seem to place any importance on their spiritual and psychological well-being?
We have all been there. Being a child can be confusing and scary, and often, children are not particularly good at expressing just how confused and afraid they are. Childhood is supposed to be a happy time, and keeping our emotions locked up (which children are certainly capable of doing) is an unhealthy habit that most of us carry into adulthood. The sooner your child learns to center him/herself, the more balanced they will become as they grow.
Meditation is not just a means to relax. It’s a lifestyle that teaches us crucial life skills and moulds us into calmer, better and even stronger people. Teaching your children these lessons early will do them a great service in later life.
If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Dalai Lama
How Meditation Benefits Young Minds
The Skills for Life program was introduced to Ohio schools as a means to teach children meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques. The results of this included less bullying, better communication and due to increased awareness, more respect and harmony all round. Children and teachers alike were excited about- and grateful for- the program, which just goes to show that children seek relaxation and calm just as adults do.
In a different study done in the San Francisco Unified School District, the majority of students saw significant improvements in academic performance, particularly in mathematics, after practicing mindfulness meditation. In that same study, a middle school where violence (including gunfire) among students was rife, included meditation into their curriculum and found that grades improved, attendance increased and the rates of violence, and thereby suspension, dropped by as much as 45%.
It doesn’t end there. Research and other studies all prove the same result: that meditation is great for children. Apart from making children more respectful, calmer, and smarter, it also:
- Builds attentiveness
- Relieves stress (which, yes, children are susceptible to)
- Teaches self-control
- Encourages empathy and compassion (the reason why instances of bullying dropped)
- Reduces hyperactivity and ADHD
- Strengthens the parent- child relationship and betters teacher- student communication
- Boosts self-esteem
- Reduces (and in some cases even eliminates) the need for medication where behavioural disorders are concerned.
How to Meditate with Children
You might think that children are not interested in meditation—that they would much rather do something “exciting”. This is a misconception that underestimates both children and meditation. There are many styles of meditation, and not all of them involve sitting still and in silence for extended periods of time, and even so, you would be surprised at the patience of children, so long as they feel included and entertained.
Regardless, there will inevitably be some children who think meditation is silly. If you are struggling to get your child interested in meditation, there are few simple tricks you can try in preparation for meditating with your child.
Never force your child to meditate. They might not enjoy it. Meditation should be a positive experience for all participants. If your child isn’t feeling it, rather ease them into it than scare them into joining you.
Children Are Copycats!
Remember: Your child would follow you to the end of the Earth. Show them what meditation is by allowing them to observe. They will soon copy you (or at least try to) and that’s half the battle already won!
Create a Meditation Zone
This can be one that you already have set up, but it’s much more fun for the kids if you set it up when it’s meditation time. Think of it as a ritual! A great idea is to create a meditation centre piece. Allow the kids to find something natural (or “magical”) to place in the meditation zone for inspiration. Once in place, meditate around it, or next to it.
Define a Routine
This will not only teach discipline, it will also create extra bonding/ family time and give your child something to look forward to. For the kids, this doesn’t have to be part of a daily regime, but it would serve everyone well if you teach your kids that meditation- while it can be fun and be practised anytime, anywhere- is a valuable exercise that should be done as often as possible.
Meditate to Music
The idea of total silence might bore some young ones. Playing soft, classical music will keep them focused, entertained and calm. Try to avoid fast, loud or chaotic music that they love. They might get overly excited and disrupt the meditation in favour of dancing!
Remember, All Children are Different
It is recommended that your meditations with your kids extend for one minute for every year of their age (so a 10 year old should meditate for 10 minutes) but this is merely a suggestion and not a rule. Children are no different to adults in the sense that we are all individuals. Some kids will love meditating and will sit still for much longer than 10 minutes, others might only last for 5. Let your child meditate in whichever way makes them most comfortable.
Meditation Techniques for Children
The simplest way to meditate is to practice (and teach) your children the art of silence. This might be difficult with very young children who might not understand that they are “not allowed” to talk, so try turning it into a game. Encourage them to use their imaginations while they are quiet. Play charades, or mime to each other to get them accustomed to keeping quiet. Or have a quiet competition with a small reward for the winner. The silence itself is not the meditation (though it could be), but rather a lesson that will make meditation much easier.
Children make great storytellers because their imaginations are much, much stronger than ours. A great way to trick your child into meditating, perhaps at nap time or bedtime, is to get them to lie down, close their eyes and imagine something. This is a means of visualization, a powerful tool not only in meditation, but also in spirituality. Don’t deprive your child of their bedtime story though. Perhaps you can designate one night a week in which they tell you a bedtime story. This will boost their confidence and their imagination. Just watch out- they might get carried away!
While it may not be direct meditation, who doesn’t love a massage? This is great bonding time with your kids and they will enjoy every second of it. It will teach them to relax as well, and can be a means of introducing them to meditation. Try combining a massage with either silence or visualization to get started.
Choosing a mantra (or many mantras) is a great way to get kids interested in meditation. Children love talking, so teaching them a new phrase is something they will enjoy. There are many mantras to choose from. Some have stories behind them, others are powerful sounds and some are phrases that inspire happiness and confidence in us. You can make up your own mantra if you want, and the kids will love coming up with their own. This, like visualization, would be an exercise in both meditation and creativity.
You don’t have to be a professional at this, so long as you don’t push it and hurt yourself. Children love moving, and they have very strong and flexible bodies. Yoga might be more fun for them than it is for you (if you are not accustomed to it), but the simple techniques, which require no previous experience or skill are great to get started with. This, for the sake of the children, can also be turned into a game- for example, to see who can stay still the longest or stretch the highest. The added benefit of exercise is a big bonus.
- Have your child relax their muscles and take deep breaths through their nose.
- When inhaling, tell them to imagine that they are a big balloon. The aim is to blow the balloon up to as big as it can possibly be.
- When exhaling, imagine the balloon deflating.
- Repeat the above for as long as you see fit. When you are ready to end the exercise, ask them one final time to blow up the balloon. When they least expect it, “pop” the balloon by tickling them. Expect lots of laughter and smiles.
When it comes to meditating with children, the focus shouldn’t directly be on spiritual awareness and stress relief, but rather on breathing, silence, and relaxation. Meditation should calm them, not scare or confuse them.
Once they get into it, you will have a lot of fun, guaranteed.
This wonderful post is by Mindvalley Academy
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