Meditation has been used for years as a way to free the mind of any unnecessary clutter, which likely prohibits and brings on stress. Though common, meditation is something that more adults practice rather than children. However, stress in children has become more widespread today.
In fact, signs of stress and anxiety are beginning to start at a very early age – earlier than ever before. Because children can experience high levels of stress or anxiety, parents should look into meditating with their children as a way to find peace and balance for not only themselves, but for their children as well.
10 What is Meditation?
Despite its increasing popularity, most of us do not know what meditation truly is. Some see meditation as mental concentration on something while others see it as putting ourselves in a state of peace and relaxation. These methods practiced are usually set out to reach one common goal: to slow down and eventually stop the incessant activities of our minds.
Though these methods are linked with meditation, they do not fully encompass what meditation is. Why? Meditation doesn't actually stop the mind, but rather heightens one's awareness through inner silence.
In reality, meditation is a state of thoughtful awareness. Rather than doing, meditation is feeling. It is living within the present moment and becoming more aware of our current surroundings. This awareness then, in turn, helps us become more mindful human beings.
When we become more mindful of our surroundings, we are able to enhance focus in all aspects of our lives. Being mindful of our lives helps us appreciate the value of living much more than just existing.
Moreover, true meditation is a state of profound, inner peace that can only prevail when the mind is, at the same time, both silent and aware. At this state, we can begin an inner transformation of heightened awareness, which enables us to fulfill our human potential.
When our human potential becomes fulfilled, we are able to truthfully look at our lives in a state of peace, eliminating any anxiety or stress we may feel.
9 What Meditation is Not
Before truly understanding what meditation is and how it can benefit both you and your child, let's take a look at what meditation is not.
Meditation is not concentration: Concentration is important for learning meditation, however, it is not what meditation primarily is. When you concentrate, you are always projecting your attention towards a particular task.
In meditation, however, you do not project your attention towards a particular task, but instead, simply remain aware of the present moment without choosing anything to concentrate upon.
Meditation is not a loss of control: Though you are completely aware of your surroundings (smell, sound, touch, etc.) in meditation, you should never let them take over any part of your practice. Instead, meditation teaches you to exist alongside your senses rather than allowing them to take control.
Meditation is not a serious religious practice: It is rather a quality of our existence and anyone, regardless of his or her spiritual background, can practice it.
Now you can share meditation with your children
Because children are prone to mimicking the behavior of their parents, starting them on a meditation journey can be as simple as leading by example. When your child observes you in meditation, it can set a tone that he can learn from.
Become the change for your child; so the next time you plan on meditating, include your child. You can choose a time that works best for you, either in the morning before you start your day, or at night before you end it. Regardless of when it happens, meditation with your child can give him time to practice silence and tranquility.
8 The Benefits
A recent study showed that children suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) showed significant improvements in their symptoms when introduced to meditation.
The children reported improved attention spans and less hyperactivity— a condition so common, two million more children under the age of six were diagnosed with it between 2003 and 2012, and one million more children were taking medication for it.
Not only did meditation assist in minimizing ADHD symptoms in children, but it also proved to have other significant benefits such as:
- Improved relationships with their parents.
- A better sense of self-confidence.
- Less need for ADHD-specific medication. In fact, 50 percent of the children using such forms of medication either reduced or stopped their medication completely.
How Do I Start?
Exposing your child to meditation could help him better cope with stress or anxiety, ultimately guiding him to live a healthier, more fulfilled life. So how can you get your children excited about meditating? We have listed below some tips for parents to take note of.
7 Massage Your Child
Not only does massage provide a vast array of health benefits, but it is also one of the easiest ways to get your child interested in meditation. Massaging creates body awareness and provides a space for an in-the-present-moment connection between you and your child.
Here are some general massage tips to ensure you are doing so properly:
- Use an organic coconut oil to massage onto the skin.
- Don't apply too much oil. The less oil, the greater the friction and the deeper the pressure.
- Use slower movements for a soothing or calming response.
- When applying pressure with your finger or thumb, provide support with the other fingers and thumbs. Why? You will wear your thumbs out otherwise.
6 Sing Together
Singing has powerful effects on brain development and is known to improve focus and concentration among children. Not only is singing beneficial for brain development, but kids also enjoying doing it.
To link singing with meditation, you can sing or chant some common meditation mantras, or you can even create your own verse that’s meaningful to the both of you.
Whether you are singing your own verse or a preexisting mantra, ask your child to keep his eyes closed, and to take notice of how he feels. Singing is a powerful meditation tool that can help children gain greater awareness of their present state.
5 Practice Breathing
Each breath we take is connected to pranayama, also known as our life-force energy, and provides oxygen to each and every cell in our body. Gentle breathing exercises can help ease many high-tense situations. For example, when your child is about to burst into tears, or when he too excited to express himself clearly. If you notice this happening, remind your child to “breathe.”
Here are a few pranayama techniques that you can try with your child:
- Ujjayi: This is a vigorous inhale and exhale through the nose, pumping the navel. It’s said to help calm the overly energetic.
- Nadi Shodhana: Also known as the “nostril breathe,” this breathing type is said to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain—leading to better cognitive development.
- Kapalabhati: This is an intense focus on the exhale, pumping the navel, with the arms in the air. Many children find this to be their favorite breathing technique because it looks and feels funny, which in turn, keeps them more focused on doing it.
4 Practice Yoga
Although meditation and yoga are separate practices, they are in fact, very closely related. How? Yoga is, in essence, moving meditation – the focus is on the practice itself, the breathing and the poses.
Yoga can also help make meditation easier for your child, as it will teach him how to focus on steady breathing.
Yoga is also very fulfilling when practiced alone, so imagine doing it as a family.
Sun Salutations are a fun and gentle form of yoga to practice as a family. They consist of 12 poses that keep energy channels within the body properly flowing, preventing anxiousness and stress.
3 Practice Visualization
To help bring your child’s awareness to different areas of his body, have him envision different scenarios while lying still.
For example, have your child imagine that he is floating on a cloud, and that he is the only one doing it.
This simple visualization is great for body awareness and will give your child something to focus on. This technique is best when practiced before bedtime, as it helps to bring forth relaxation.
2 Practice Silence
Schedule some time out of your day to dedicate solely to silence. Even if it’s only for a couple of hours, or for a couple of minutes, it will be a great lesson for your little one.
To get your child eager about practicing silence, you could turn it into a game of “who can be the quietest?” This will not only be fun for your child, but he will learn some valuable meditation habits at a young age.
When your child eventually breaks his silence, don’t end the game on a bad note, but rather reward him for his participation.
1 Create a Meditation Room or Space
If you wish to incorporate meditation into your child’s life, you need to get creative, especially because a child’s attention span is much shorter than an adult’s. You can get creative by designing either a specific room or space for meditation.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Bring things from the outside world into the home. For example, explore nature and have your child pick up a few pieces (stones, tree bark, leaves, etc.) to decorate your meditation room or space. This will help your child connect with nature on a more spiritual level.
- Decorate the meditation room or space with either drawings or paintings your child has done. This will help your child inhibit more self-love, reminding him how good it feels to do all the things he loves to do for himself, like arts and crafts for example.
- Keep this space clean. It works on a simple logic – if the environment around you and your child is clean, it will make it easier for relaxation during meditation.
- Choose your lighting carefully. You may want natural sunlight to enter this space, so choose a place near a window. If you meditate in the evening, you may want to use more artificial lighting. Whatever the case may be, make sure to set the lighting to the mood both you and your child are in.
By meditating with your children, you help them see the world through their own senses.
At its core, mindfulness for children can help them live their lives more thoughtfully. Through mediation, children can learn how to be true to who they are, which can lead to more appreciation and gratitude for not only themselves but for the world in which they live in.