Children are amazing beings. What is more surprising is the rate at which they can understand meditation. They possess this freedom of mind that enables them to eliminate external distractions and be conscious of the present. Practicing mindfulness and meditation at an early age will help in nurturing the mind as it develops. In addition, it will make meditation easily achieved and more accessible as you grow older. While meditation for kids is advised for several reasons, it is also important to know that forcing it on children may have negative effects on them. It is better to make meditation fun and encouraging to kids, for it is a great way to make them come close to the exercise and love it.
Kids introduced to meditation are noticed to easily manage pressure, depression, hyperactivity, and stress better than their counterparts who are not. They are more likely to build positive characteristics which include, having more empathy, self-control, respect for others and even better concentration in class activities. In various elementary schools today, meditation for kids is gaining popularity. A test study with the San Francisco schools whereby the detention period is replaced with meditation has proven that meditation has a positive impact on kids. After four years of this study, an increase in the academic performance of children was reported, there was a huge decrease in the rate of suspension in schools which amounted to over 70%. This is good news, where you achieve more by doing less.
Another principal meditation initiative for kids in elementary schools is the “Compassionate Schools Project”. This study involves public secondary schools and elementary schools in Kentucky, (Louisville). This project has a curriculum which contains mindfulness meditation geared towards self-control and management of stress; movement meditation, breathing exercises and posture geared towards agility and physical consciousness; emotional and social understanding geared towards effective interpersonal relationships and the knowledge of nutrition geared towards healthy feeding. This project for kids in schools is expected to raise children who are healthy and vibrant in all aspects of their lives.
In this guide, we are going to discuss the effective means of introducing children to meditation and mindfulness. We are going to see:
- The Different Approaches To an Effective Meditation for Kids
- The Principles of Introducing Meditation to Children
One of the greatest tools you can give to a child is meditation, the impact will live with him for the rest of his life. Teach the children the best way to train themselves from within by following this guide on meditation for kids.
The Different Approaches To an Effective Meditation for Kids
Here is a list containing the details of meditation techniques specially selected for kids. You can choose any of the techniques to introduce to your children depending on their ages and activities they find fun. These techniques are based on the primary meditation practices which involve focusing and refocusing your mind when it wanders.
Simple Candle Staring
Essence: Improved visualization, increased focus, and self-confidence.
It is obvious kids love burning flames and they are likely to be attracted to burning candles. Find a dark room and let the candle flame be the only source of light. They will find this setting attractive!
- Sit comfortably with your kids for about 3fts away from the burning candle.
- Stare into the burning flame freely and gently. Feel the freedom from within and avoid moving your eyes or thought from the candle flame. Your kids are more likely to effortlessly focus on the flame simply because they love fire.
- After staring for 2 – 3 minutes, shut your eyes. The aim is to visualize the image the candle created in your mind. Try to keep the image stable without forcing yourself, then play with it. Make it burn brighter, appear bigger, anything you can. Gently guide your children to do the same.
- As the image fade away, reopen your eyes and stare at the candle flame again. Repeat.
Essence: Enhanced focus power, increased imagination, and improved visualization skill.
Forming a mental picture is an ability kids posses naturally more than adults. To make this meditation technique more appealing to kids, they should choose an object they have developed a liking for.
- Shut your eyes and imagine you are standing in front of a whiteboard.
- Visualize yourself drawing that object you are fond of, it may be your favorite cartoon character. You are standing with all the color of marker you need.
- When you open your eyes, try to redraw that image of your favorite cartoon character on a paper, just as you have pictured it mentally.
Essence: Increased focusing strength, and improved ability to visualize.
Kids can focus on anything they find interesting probably because everything is still new to them. Therefore, let them select an object they have developed an interest in. This will make the practice fun and interesting to them.
- Keep that object of interest in front of the kids. The object could be in the form of a picture or a toy. Sometimes a Mandala (a ritualistic design used as an aid for meditation) is used, as kids find it attractive too.
- Focus gently on the object you have chosen for at least 1 – 2 minutes while observing in details.
- Then shut your eyes and picture the object in your mind. Try to hold it stable right in your mind.
- When the mental image starts fading, open your eyes as you take a quick look at the object once again.
- Then, shut your eyes again and create a clearer mental picture of the object adding extra details. Repeat as the image fades.
Mindfulness Breathing Meditation
Essence: Increased overall consciousness, relaxation, and more concentration.
Practicing mindfulness through conscious breathing is a common meditation technique for everyone especially in Buddhism. Here is a simple method for guiding kids through breathing meditation.
- Keep your eyes shut while sitting comfortably in a quiet place.
- Try to be conscious of the movement of air from your nose to the lungs. Just feel your chest rise as you breathe in and falls as you breathe out. You can alternatively focus on the expansion and contraction of your stomach as you inhale and exhale.
- Count your breaths. Start from the number 5 or 10 and count backward to 1.
- If you lose count, start afresh until you get to 1, which is the goal.
- Always start from a lower number as 5 to count. Increase as you continue practicing and don’t be hard on yourself.
Compassionate Meditation For Kids
Essence: Building of positive emotions, development of compassion, increased empathy, building of love and care, kindness and sincere feelings, blocking out negative feelings and emotions, and staying away from sadness and ill-will.
Kids are more likely to develop the feeling of compassion more than adults. They easily feel it when others show them love or hurt them in any way. On the other hand, they feel other people’s pains equally. A child can actually cry when a sibling is threatened. Just like that, they develop a sense of empathy for others, especially close relatives.
- Sit in a comfortable position, then shut your eyes.
- Think through your life and recall a time you really felt accepted, loved, and deeply cared for. Recall from the memory the warm feelings that were manifest in your heart and mind.
- Once you perceive the feeling, hold on to it. Hold your chest with your hands and feel it profoundly.
- Wish yourself happiness, peacefulness, and safety. Feel free to say it out to yourself.
- Connect with the feeling and feel the circulation of a pleasant light through your body. Continue to wish yourself good and repeat the wishes for more times.
Compassion for others
- Sit in a comfortable manner and close your eyes.
- Remember that person you feel that have wronged you and you have been in conflict with. Keep him in your mind think about him. It could be anybody, friends or family members.
- While thinking about the person, try to fit yourself into his shoes. Imagine that you have become the person. You are now with his successes and failures, fit into his dreams, desires and personal problems.
- Try to figure out why he behaves the way he does. Understand him and feel the way you believe he is feeling. You will understand how different it all feels from his side.
- Wish the personal happiness, peacefulness, and safety. You can say it out as you proclaim it. Send the person a feeling of love, compassion and, kindness.
- Imagine a feeling of warmth flow from your heart to the person as you hug him. This creates a stronger emotional feeling
- Lastly, you should be able to have a positive feeling about that person now. Accept your changed feelings towards him and share love.
The Principles of Introducing Meditation to Children
Introducing meditation to kids is a lot more different when compared to adults. This is as a result of kids playful nature. They may tend to not focus for so long, and sitting still may not be their thing. But kids are more likely to imitate someone they are fond of and learn very well by example. Therefore, there is a need for you to remember the following principles while teaching kids how to meditate.
Kids love fun, interesting and engaging activities
Never make meditation appear too serious to the kids, instead, make it appear more like a play. When the whole process is appealing, they will want to engage in it again. This principle is more effective when you try to be like the kids and think in their direction. It requires your creativity to be able to make them learn without even knowing they are learning.
While giving out instructions to the kids, make it mild and use the language they will understand. This means that instead of telling them “Today we will practice mindful breathing meditation…” say something like “Hello lovely ones, let us find out where the air you are breathing goes..” arouse their curiosity. On the same note, do not just tell a child to monitor his breath, you can do this in an engaging manner by telling him to place his right hand on his belly and then feel his stomach as it rises and falls to know where the air is going. Tell him to just relax his hands and take in slower breaths. You will end up teaching him mindfulness while he thinks he’s playing.
You should choose the techniques to use depending on the ages of the children you are instructing. Teaching younger children of 5years is different from teaching children of up to 10 years.
Keep the duration of the meditation short
It is better to leave the kids wanting to practice more than to leave them bored and tired. Keep the duration short according to the age of the child, it is recommended generally that the duration in minutes should not exceed the formula (child’s age + 1) minutes. This means that for a child of 5 years, the maximum duration of meditation should be (5 + 1 = 6) minutes. Using an alarm timer is a way of making the session a bit more interesting.
Lead the meditation while the kids follow
The best way to introduce meditation to children is by practicing it first and letting them imitate you. It is a common thing to always find kids trying to imitate the actions of the adults they have around. Therefore, if you are a parent that wants to effectively inculcate meditation in your kids, then you must be able to develop a consistent meditation practice. They are watching you, sometimes they will be the ones to come around to practice with you. Moreover, when you get your kids to practice with you, do not just give out instructions, rather tell them to do what you are doing. Be the leader by example. The practice is better enjoyed together.
4. Understand the kids and support them
Always be supportive of the kids, hear their opinions and experiences and encourage them. If a child asks you a question about anything during or after the meditation practice, it is important you understand where he is coming from and answer him gently and sincerely. Make sure to carry the child along by not leaving him feeling confused. You can easily do this by letting him share his experience at the end of the exercise. Always accept whatever he shared with you, giving room for improvement in his imagination.
Remember to pay more attention when taking a group of children. Attend to them personally making sure that none is being left behind or sad. Let each express themselves personally according to their personal experience.
Understand that meditation is a process
Never be hard on yourself or your child if you feel you are not making improvements within a few weeks of practice. Just remember that curbing your expectations is a part of the meditation process. Just be devoted to the meditation practice, your kid will definitely learn how to better be with himself, accept others, and develop self-confidence and self-awareness. Remember also that meditation is not about how long you practiced, but a process where you are expected to gradually grow. Therefore effectively manage your expectations so it does not serve as a hindrance.
To build a better future generation is a job left for all of us in the present time. There is no better way to achieve this than through our children. Training a child who is aware of himself and kind enough to accept other people in the society, is the best gift you will give the future generation. Meditation is a practical and easy way to build a child that has self-control, and empathy for others. It a great tool to hand over to your kids now for it will give them an edge to those who did not get to learn the tools as kids.
The idea behind this article is to provide insight into the meditation practices for kids. It will help you understand the techniques of meditation better adapted for kids. Most importantly, it conveys the principles which you need to know to help you guide your kids through an effective meditation exercise.
Start today to build a peaceful and fair future world by introducing your kids to meditation.