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Meditation is the natural antidote to the stress and sensory overload that children experience on a daily basis at school and home. It allows them to develop focus, regulate their own emotions and pay attention thoroughly in any situation. Overall, meditation imparts a sense of centre and balance and builds resilience.
How Can Your Child Get Started with Meditation?
Children tend to have a higher spiritual connection, unlike adults who are prone to have a dominating ego, limiting beliefs and years of layering and conditioning. With practice, they can easily shut down their egos and connect to their inner self when they are taught how to do so. You could start at home or by enrolling your child at the nearest centre that teaches meditation for children. School programs that offer meditation are also a great way to get your child started.
Types of Meditation
A number of techniques can be used to still the mind into a meditative state and some are specifically designed to be appealing to children and easy to do.
1. Guided Meditation
Guided meditation is a method that brings a visual component to breathing exercises that stop the minds of children from wandering during meditation and keeps it focused.
2. The Balloon
The technique involves teaching children to visualise their abdomen as a balloon. Every time they inhale, they imagine their belly expanding like a balloon and letting the breath out is like letting the air out of the balloon. This may be harder to demonstrate to kids who are under the age of 6 as sitting still for long isn’t much fun. Try adding an extra movement to the exercise such as stretching out their arms out and overhead as they inhale to represent their imaginary balloon expanding.
3. Follow the Leader
If your child has a big brother or a best bud that they look up to as a leader figure, this method can be used for meditation. The breath is the leader and your child’s mind is the follower and the mind follows the leader to where he leads. Follow the breath as it moves inside and out and count the number of breaths at the end of every exhale. If the child is usually the leader, they can imagine themselves to be the breath and their best bud, their mind.
4. Guided Relaxation Practices
This is a great technique that can be used by people of all ages when they are stressed out or unable to sleep. It involves systematically contracting and relaxing parts of the body while breathing slow and deep in sync with the body. For example, lie down comfortably and take a few deep cleansing breaths while you relax. Focus the attention on one of the foot and tense and squeeze it tight for two deep breaths. Relax the foot immediately and feel the tension being released as you exhale slowly. Repeat the same with the other foot and continue the process moving up the body at points such as the calf, knee, thighs, and hips and so on.
5. Classroom Meditation
Meditation before a class such as mathematics can help students learn better and score higher grades. Just before the start of the class, students are made to sit in a relaxed position in their seats with their hands on the desk, feet flat on the floor and the back straight. The eyes are relaxed and closed while they listen to a chant or hum it themselves.
Meditation Techniques for Kids
Children of different age groups learn differently and getting them to sit still in a place for long periods is almost impossible. Adding physical movements and mental visualizations along with breathing techniques is an effective way to get them to meditate.
Children of Age 3-7 Years
For children in this age group, try the lotus breath which connects to the breath and feelings. Starting the session off with fun activities that involve songs or discussions that build up to the idea or focusing their attention on an imaginary lotus flower. The children are instructed to make the lotus mudra by touching their thumbs and pinkies together to create a lotus. Then take a deep breath and imagine the flower’s fragrance and how they feel after smelling it. The session can proceed with questions about how they feel at that moment, how their day was and what emotions went through them.
Children of Age 8 Years & Above
Meditative breathing techniques can be taught to children after this age. Once they master the balloon breath, they can be introduced to the more advanced Bear Breath. This fabulous breathing technique relieves stress and anxiety and can be done at any time during the day to feel calm and focused. The technique involves breathing through the nose for 4 counts, holding in the breath for 4 counts and releasing it for 4 counts through the nose.
Benefits of Meditation for Kids
Hundreds of studies on meditation conducted over the years show positive health benefits such as improvement in emotional intelligence, brain functioning, psychological development and more. For a deeper understanding, its benefits can be understood at levels such as:
1. Psychological Benefits
Meditation and focused attention help children to better explore their minds and come up with new ideas. Their memory is also improved which leads to better performance and grades in school. It also reduces anxiety and their need to be constantly entertained, it allows them to slow down and analyse themselves which prevents addictive tendencies.
2. Emotional Benefits
Meditation helps develop more positive emotions and a better control over the negative ones. The children learn to appreciate their surroundings and what they have with a general positive outlook on life. They also become more kind and affectionate towards others and build a greater ability to love. Their higher emotional intelligence leads to more confidence and happiness.
3. Physical Benefits
The relaxing effects of meditation help children sleep well. The results are good concentration, a stronger immune system and a healthily functioning body.
Tips to Keep in Mind When Teaching Kids Meditation
1. Begin With the Breath
The mind follows the breath. There can be no meditation without proper breathing; therefore it is imperative to lay down a strong foundation for breathing techniques. Since most meditation methods begin with the breath as an anchor, children who have proficiency in breathing techniques can meditate well.
2. Learning to Let Go
Not all kids can follow the instructions fully, they don’t always respond in the way we expect them to. Therefore tailor the meditation technique a little to better suit their personality. For example, some children may not want to close their eyes, and instead of forcing them to do so, you can give them something to look at as they sit in their meditative posture. In the end, meditation is a personal journey for both them and you.
3. Put Imagination to Good Use
Giving them something peaceful, safe and serene to imagine is a good guided meditation practice. Children are natural at constructive imagination and there’s no end to the fun things they can bring to a meditative session.
4. Be Patient
Children are bound to be restless in the beginning. It takes a while before they learn to settle down in a meditation session. Let go and allow their energies to find its own balance. There are plenty of approaches to mindfulness and meditation, therefore do not get attached to any.
5. Practice as You Preach
Meditate along with your children as you teach them. It works the better two-way street and makes it a valuable an experience both ways.
Meditation, when taught at a young age, can help children deal with stress, better manage their emotions and grow up to live healthier lives.