Kids are naturally mindful. Have you even noticed how completely present they are during play, enjoyable tasks or anything that holds their interest? Most kids are mindful until about age 9 or 10 when their bodies and brains begin to change in preparation for puberty. If you can show them how to continue being mindful and how to meditate at an early age it is a wonderful gift you can give them that will help them their whole life.
Meditation is simply stopping and being quiet. Mindfulness is being fully present no matter what activity you are doing. Many use the analogy of the Sand in a Jar to explain what meditation does for a person. Fill a jar with water and add different color grains of sand. Each grain of sand represents your thoughts. When you shake the jar the sand is dispersed in the water making it murky or unclear, like our thoughts when we’re unhappy or stressed out. Yet if you let the jar sit for a while all the sand or thoughts will float down and rest at the bottom and the jar is clear. With clarity of mind comes a sense of well being, improved problem solving, greater creativity and joy.
Benefits of Mindfulness & Meditation
In the book Planting Seeds by Thich Nhat Hanh and The Plum Village Community, some of the positive benefits that mindfulness and meditation can bring include improved focus, decreased stress and anxiety, better emotional regulation and improved empathy and understanding. These are all qualities we hope to instill in our children and can certainly work on in ourselves.
Teaching Mindfulness and Meditation to Children
Some say you don’t have to teach children mindfulness, they innately know how. Rather, it’s the parents that need to reconnect to the stillness within and relearn how to simply be present. Practically speaking, cultivating a meditation practice begins with daily practice. The best time to practice meditation would be upon waking in the morning when you’re already in a relaxed state. However, this is not realistic for most families so the easiest time to incorporate mediation is often at night before bed time (which is also great for sleep too.)
I started meditation practice with my kids by listening to guided meditations. I didn’t use anything fancy or specific to children, I started with an App called Simply Being on my iPad. It features a calm female voice and soothing background music or nature sounds and it guides you to let go of your thoughts and simply be. Then we moved on to more specific guided meditations that use progressive physical and mental relaxation with the Silva Meditations App and The Perfect Sleep App. Before school we have started the Pebble Meditation as outlined in the book A Handful of Quiet; Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh. After doing the initial meditation drawings, it takes less than five mintues and is focused on breath awareness. It’s a great way to start the school day.
The Keys to Success
- Commit to daily practice with your children
- Focus on breathing in and breathing out & being present
- Let thoughts come & go, don’t make an effort to control them
- Start with guided meditations that you enjoy
- Read books to your kids about mindfulness, meditation and positive affirmations (see recommended reading below)
There are thousands of different ways to mediate so it’s a matter of finding a way that you and your children connect with. Give the gift that will last a lifetime and start your meditation practice today. Let me know how it’s going or if you have any questions. I’m here to help.
Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community
A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh
I Think, I Am! by Louise L. Hay and Kristina Tracy
Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Maclean
Mindfulness Movements: 10 Exercises for Well Being by Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Kerry Maclean and Lauren Alderfer
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