Meditation, also known as mindfulness, is a practice that can be taught to all children, no matter the attention span or hyper-activity level.
According to a study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, second- and third-grade students who practiced “mindful” meditation for 30 minutes twice a week had improved behavior and increased test scores in subjects that required memory, attention, and focus.
Other recent studies show overall improvement in academic performance, a reduction in impulsive behavior and enhanced emotional control in children that practiced meditation.
Being in the present moment can also enhance your child’s ability to focus and remain calm during stressful situations. Many children today are suffering from anxiety disorders, ADHD, and other problematic behavioral issues from the stressors of modern society. Luckily, there are some easy ways to cultivate mindfulness in your child.
Here are a few great ways to teach your kids to be in the ‘here’ and ‘now’.
- Lead by example – Cultivate your own meditation practice and your kids are more likely to follow in your footsteps. Kids emanate the behaviors of their parents. Seeing you in meditation will behoove your kids to sit with you and try it out. Most little ones have the ability to sense a sacred space and they can learn to respect the silence and peaceful state that you’re in. Schedule a time for meditation each day—you can simply call it “quiet time.” This is a good way to get your kiddo accustomed to sitting still and going inward.
- Teach them to breathe – Have your kid(s) sit with you and breathe deeply in and out. Practice making the ‘ujjayi breath’ – the deep ocean sound at the back of the throat. If they have trouble with understanding, first have them open their mouth and make the ‘haaaa’ sound, breathing in and out of their mouth (like when trying to fog up a mirror). Then, after time, have them close their mouth, breathing only through the nose (while still making the sound). Teaching your kids to breathe will be the foundation of their meditation or ‘mindfulness’ practice. It’s also one of the most fundamental tools parents can use to correct unpleasant behavior in children (like crying, screaming, yelling and temper tantrums). Just breathe….
- Sing mantras – Kids love singing songs (who doesn’t!?) Search for mantras on YouTube, save the ones you love, and learn them together for ‘song time’ with the whole family. Mantras are used to increase self-confidence and self-expression in children. Certain mantras are even said to activate all the different areas in the brain. When you are done with the mantra, have your child sit quietly with their eyes closed to feel how the experience affects the body. Mantras transport us to a higher state of consciousness and when done together, can create a unique, bonding experience.
- Practice yoga – Traditionally speaking, yoga is a moving meditation and a preparation for sitting meditation. Try a few simple rounds of sun salutations, keeping the breath in mind. Breathing is key to a successful yoga practice and brings your child’s awareness to the present moment. If your child is one with lots of energy and has trouble being still—yoga is a great way to get the wiggles out. After yoga practice, kids tend to be worn out and are more likely to welcome the notion of stillness to rest and breathe.
- Try mindful eating – This is a wonderful technique that brings your child to the present moment while enjoying food. Before a meal, have your child experience silence and take in the aromas of the food. Continue in silence during the entire meal while reminding your kiddie to chew until the food essentially becomes a liquid before swallowing. Ask them to pay attention to their food (the texture, flavor, color and entire experience of eating). Studies show mindful eating helps people eat slower and feel fuller (which can prevent overeating).
- Cloud gaze together – I bet you had no idea that you were meditating when you did this as a child. Lie down on a picnic blanket, sand, grass, or ground (anywhere really) and look up at the clear blue sky to search for some fluffy white condensation. For those few moments, our awareness is solely on the clouds, their shapes and molding them into whatever our imagination can create—a dragon, a castle—anything you want it to be. Let their imagination soar!
- Shut off electronics. If you are serious about getting your little one to ‘zen out,’ have them go on a T.V. and video game diet. The visual stimulation can make it hard for their mind to wind down and concentrate on something as simple as the breath or a mantra. Even if cutting down on electronics is not in the cards, meditation and mindfulness are practices that can greatly benefit your child.
These are only a few examples of how to teach your child to be mindful. There are so many other beautiful ways that can be incorporated in their day-to-day life. Kids do it naturally! When your child gets lost in an activity, see if you can step back and observe, rather that yelling out “good job!” or anything that can take them out of ‘the zone.’
Ask them to be mindful of what they say throughout the day and how their words affect others. Develop other creative ways that resonate with you and your family dynamic. But most importantly, be a great example for your kids by developing your own meditation practice—and sticking with it.
You can learn more about Bess at makesnaturalsense.com.