Most of us have heard that meditation is good for our overall health. Meditation, a method of relaxation by focusing on one’s mind and breathing for a set time, has been linked to decreased stress levels and increased happiness in adults. But what does meditation do for children? Its effects on our kids are abundant and parents, teachers, and researchers have seen these effects time and again.
An increasing number of children have been showing elevated signs of stress, restlessness, and anxiety starting at a very early age. We know meditation is a great tool to find peace and balance amid our hectic lives – that’s why we enjoy our practice. How do we get our kids to love meditation, too?
Here are a few other creative ways to incorporate meditation into your kids’ lives.
- Prepare a meditation space. Explore in nature and have your child pick a stone (earth), fill a cup with water, burn a candle (fire), and use something like a feather to represent the air element. Put the elements in the center of the room. Kids get really into this and they somehow inherently know this is creating a sacred space. Sit in a circle around the elements and begin your meditation.
- Have them gaze at a burning candle for a period of time, this can be a meditation practice in focus and discipline (fire is interesting enough that it can hold their attention).
- Play a game where you place a book on their head and see how slow and mindfully they can walk to the other side of the room.
The main goal here is not to force your children to meditate, but to get them intrigued and accustomed to it. Make it a fun and positive experience throughout their childhood, so they are more likely to keep it up as a practice as they grow.
How Do Children Benefit from Meditation?
Children benefit immensely from meditation. It teaches them how to calm themselves, clear their minds, and start fresh. Meditation also helps children:
- Develop their minds
- Learn to pay attention
- Enhance compassion
- Fall asleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
The list could go on with all the benefits meditation gives children. Studies show meditation can aid in controlling episodes of ADHD, PTSD, and depression. According to Carolyn Williams-Orlando, PhD., “In clinical practice, many children benefit from learning meditation, including those with autism, trauma, anxiety, and attentional, behavioral, or depressive conditions.” (Williams-Orlando, 2013).
The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) published research that showed an estimated two million more children in the U.S. were diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) between 2003 and 2012 and one million more children were taking medication for it. What’s more concerning is – most of the diagnoses started before the age of six.
A study done at the National Therapies Research Unit at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney Australia, showed significant improvements in ADHD symptoms with children who were taught to meditate. The children reported improved attention spans and less hyperactivity.
Children gain many attributes from meditation. Confidence, higher self-esteem, and resilience are apparent while encouraging children to think about their personal actions. When used daily, it can also limit the need to give your child medication for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other conditions. “Meditation has the potential to be a healthy, effective, and free alternative to prescribing amphetamines to our children.” ((Elizabeth Klco, 2010, p. 4).
By engaging in meditation with your children, you may be lessening their future risk for substance abuse and depression, helping them to make better life choices, and become all around happier adults.
How Do I teach my Child to Meditate?
It isn’t hard to teach your child to meditate. The biggest hurdle is establishing a structured and realistic routine that you both can follow. The attention span of younger children is limited, but making sure to set aside a few minutes for meditation each day is important in the development of an established schedule. There are a few steps to have your child focus on when teaching them to meditate:
- Focus on your breathing – Encourage them to focus on their breathing, the movements of their chest, and to become more aware of their surroundings.
- Give them a focal point – Let’s face it: kids are going to be kids and no amount of force or pleading will keep them still for long periods of time. Instead, give them something to focus on when they don’t want to close their eyes. A sticker or picture on the floor or wall may be able to hold their attention longer and help them learn to focus.
- Set a goal – Yes, things may not go according to plan, but having a set goal in mind helps both you and your child stick to a routine and note progress along the way. Whether the goal is meditating for 10 minutes, or simply staying quiet, celebrate your child’s milestones – just don’t feel like you can’t vary from that path!
- Become the Change – Children are prone to copying the behavior of their parents. So starting them on a meditation journey can be as simple as leading by example. When your kids observe you in meditation, it sets a tone that children can learn from.
- Practice Silence – Schedule a day, or even just a half-day, to dedicate to silence.You can turn it into a game, “who can be the quietest?” It should be fun for them. And when you do break the silence, create a fun game or song around breaking the silence with words of love, kindness, and good intent.
In addition, we present a guided video meditation for kids:
The effects of meditation for children become apparent after only a short time and the practices and values it teaches will be with them all their lives. Help set them up for emotional and psychological success and show them how to find themselves. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself, along the way.