Kids and Meditation (Meditations Included)
Our kids don’t live in a bubble, but what if we could protect them with a few tools that help counteract the inevitable disappointments, range of emotions, and obstacles that are a part of life?
Sounds good, right?
The idea is to give kids tools before they need them, and they will need stress management tools at least by middle school or high school. It’s never too late though.
I talk with so many parents that say, ‘not my kid’. ‘My kid has nothing to be stressed about.’ ‘My kid is always happy’. ‘My kid is an A student.’
If your child sees you or other adults suppressing their stress (remember, kids pick up on things) then they will hide it too, even from you so that you don’t worry. And kids worry about the darndest things.
I have one child who will let you (and everyone else) know when the wind blows in the wrong direction, but I also have another child who is calm and even-tempered (on the outside). It is that one who experiences more worries.
The good news is, meditation is an equally beneficial tool for all temperaments and a full range of ages and stages.
Children learn through example. That includes how parents (us) experience stress; learning through our behaviors. Most of the time that looks like powering through, hiding it, suppressing it. Toughen up, becoming exhausted and burned out, getting sick more often, short-tempered, white-knuckled willpower, rushing around, over-eating, overly-busy, and other bad habits.
Stress and anxiety is a conversation we need to have with our kids as we realize how we model and manage stress in front of them.
This includes the tools we use, having self-awareness, and healthy coping strategies. How do you experience stress? How often do you use stress management tools and coping strategies?
How often do we talk about stress with kids anyway? Some parents may be reading this right now, realizing they never have.
Do your kids know what anxiety is? What stress feels like?
Each kid experiences it differently, sometimes emotionally (overly emotional, frequent crying or tantrums), physically (stomach aches, head aches, obsessive fidgeting) or psychologically (behavior issues, worrying, perfectionism, learning or social issues). Sleep issues are also included.
School age is an appropriate age to begin the conversation.
You can begin a conversation by sharing with your kids how you experience different situations, emotions and feelings. They may find some things they relate to.
My 2nd grader’s teacher has incorporated this into the curriculum with worksheets that help children identify how they feel and experience anger and worry, etc. Most kids can tell you how they feel anger, stress/tension, worry in the body and where it shows up for them.
Sometimes explaining stress/anxiety/worry as tight or heavy in the body is a good way to introduce the subject. Also, explaining how relaxation exercises can help you feel lighter, freer and more comfortable.
An interactive exercise: Have them tighten their body or one body part at a time and relax and loosen it. Stress can feel like pressure in the body and mind. And relaxation can feel like releasing that pressure.
After school lets out is a great time to discover how a child unwinds and de-stresses from the day…and perhaps they don’t.
First observe what they do. Do they like quiet time? Do they want to talk? Get physical and play? Listen to music? Are they still high on the busy-buzz from school?
One way to begin a stress management strategy is to let them choose a tool after school. This can be built in to their routine and only takes a few minutes.
Stress Management tools for kids:
1.Meditation- Before bed, kids can experience anxiety because it may be the first time that day to be free of constant activity and “noise” to distract them. It’s common for thoughts (and anxiety) to bubble up at this time. If you build moments of relaxation into their daily routine, the abrupt non-activity before bed, becomes a less stressful transition.
To counteract this, establish “quiet time” and meditation or yoga during the day. Your kid doesn’t sit still? They do if you insert this purposeful time into their routine. An addition to a routine may be tough to establish, but once you do, it’s much smoother sailing. I’ve learned that kids can do anything, even sit still, when you make it part of a routine.
Learn more in this video: How to teach meditation to kids. “One family uses a candle-gazing meditation each morning.” “Guided meditations are great for younger kids.”
2. Deep Breathing Exercises- Counting breaths is engaging for kids. Counting on the inhale 1 – 2 – 3. And on the exhale 1 – 2- 3. Or inhale 1-2-3-4 and exhale one big -1-. You can do this with your child a few times a day, in the car, before school, before bed. Ask your child how they feel after the deep breathing exercise. This is a great practice before a test at school too!
3. Mindful Activities and Games- I live in the 21st century so I realize “games” tend to mean something that involves a device. However, you can encourage your children, depending on their age, to practice mindful games such as solitaire, setting up dominoes, puzzles, arranging things in order by size or color, coloring, molding clay, yoga/stretching, beading, and even Legos. These are all meditative and mindfully calming activities if there’s no deadline, rush, or intent.
Most people want to know the benefits of meditation before they’re convinced.
The caveat is it’s important not to tie in any expectations with a meditation practice, although researchers know meditation can improve focus in school, reduce outbursts and tantrums, and increase problem-solving abilities. These are external measurements. We may never know exactly the extent that meditation impacts a child within.
One thing is for sure, I’ve never known a kid to walk away from a meditation or some deep breathing not feeling better.
Along with specific coping exercises, a regular routine (especially for sleep and meals) is crucial. Kids thrive on routine in order to feel secure. A balanced mix of activity, play, creativity, engagement with others, and quiet time is optimal.
Ready to meditate?
Kids Asteroid Meditation (Age 5-10): This meditation is designed to release and replace those bad feelings with good feelings. Before bed is a perfect time for this meditation as it takes place on an enchanted creature (they create with their imagination) in outer space.
Kids Butterfly Adventure (Age 5-10): Most popular children’s download! This requires a great imagination! Luckily kids come well equipped with one. They can truly escape with this calming meditation…engaging all their senses from sounds, sights to sensations.
Kids “Happy Place” Meditation- Using visualization, kids are encouraged to create a safe, happy place of their very own. They can take the feeling from their place and use this any time they feel stress arise. Great for beginners!
Kids 4 Minute Mastery Meditation- “Ninja Master” Short, simple, but powerful meditation using a metaphor that helps build confidence in children and lets them feel in control of mastering life’s obstacles.
Kids 4 Minute Mastery Meditation- “Master Trainer” This short guided meditation leads children into the depths of their imagination using a metaphor to help build confidence. They’ll enjoy mastering skills as a Master Trainer of enchanted horses!
*Look forward to next week’s post: The Law of Attraction and Meditation
Peace and Be Well,