As so many of us become more and more acquainted with the benefits of a regular meditation practice, relatively few of us have given much thought to how beneficial meditation for kids really is.
Today’s children are born into such a fast paced world, they are born computer ready and can multi-task technologically, playing high speed strategy games, messaging and posting on social media, even using computers or hand held devices to study.
Their brains are challenged to think so quickly over prolonged periods of time each day. This can lead to stress and what’s known as the monkey mind. A monkey mind is a mind that constantly jumps from subject to subject and has difficulty finding peace and calm.
A simple mindfulness technique or meditation for kids on a regular basis (each day if possible) can be enormously beneficial in releasing this constant mind chatter and restoring calm. Experts say that one minute of meditation per year of a child’s age is enough.
Another benefit of meditation for kids would be during periods of high stress like exams or simply returning back to school after the holidays. Children often become tense and stressed, making them irritable and anxious.
A morning meditation would help to restore calm and clarity to the mind and when the mind is calm, the body is relaxed and tension released, allowing for easier absorption of material being studied or clearer thinking during an exam or first day back.
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In every day life, children can regularly feel emotions such as fear and frustration. In our fast paced society children can come to expect instant solutions to their concerns or problems. When this is not possible, tantrums, anger and frustration can be the results.
How can meditation for kids be of real and lasting benefit and where do we help them begin?
Fears in children can cover an enormous spectrum from peer pressure and the need to fit in, to the more primal fears of death and the loss of loved ones. Meditation can support a child’s emotional development helping them to cope better with their day to day concerns, fears and challenges.
There are even several clinical trials to back this up including a very interesting study conducted in Sydney Australia where a group of children being treated for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) were introduced to meditation on a regular basis. At the end of the trial, these children showed improved attention spans and were less hyperactive as well as having improved relations with their parents and a higher sense of self esteem.
Most amazingly, 50% of the children in the trial were either taken off their medication for ADHD or had it significantly reduced whilst still showing signs of continued improvement through regular meditation practice.
Remember, kids watch what you do more than they listen to what you say. Food for thought if you really want to help your kids handle their fears in the best way possible.
Here’s a few ideas for those researching the benefits of meditation for kids (particularly young kids):
1. Start with a regularly scheduled mindfulness practice. We are creatures of habit, and a “Mindfulness Minute” or whatever you want to call it, can be practiced once or several times a day. Teachers can use mindfulness/meditation to help kids calm down after recess and parents can use mindfulness as a wonderful way to end the day with their children.
2. Practice mindfulness anywhere, but at home (or class) it’s nice to have a special place; creating a soothing environment helps active kids settle down and relax for a few minutes.
3. Start with sharing a story when you used mindfulness to deal with a difficult situation so they can learn… and have them share their stories.
4. Ask them to sit cross-legged and tall, with their eyes closed.
5. Try introducing an exercise, explaining what’s to be expected. For example, say to the children, “I will make a sound. Listen very carefully until you can’t hear the sound anymore and raise your hand when you can’t hear it anymore.” Use a small bell, a singing bowl or an app on your phone with sounds on it.
6. Ask the children to move their hand to their stomach and feel their breathing as their abdomen moves up and down. Have them feel their breath for about 30-60 seconds.
7. Tell them, “Listen very carefully to the bell, until you can’t hear the sound anymore.”
And that’s it! The whole practice repeated just a few times, takes no more than 2-3 minutes.