I paused going up the stairs, reflecting on the moment that was happening in front of me: my eight-year old daughter was sitting cross-legged in front of a wall in our living room, her eyes closed, meditating. She sat there for ten minutes, not moving. Breathing.
This isn’t a daily practice, but it was a wonderful moment to behold. Meditation is something my kids have been exposed to from a young age: I try and meditate every morning, though sometimes it doesn’t happen. Lily has come into my bedroom many times, found me sitting on my peacock-covered meditation pillow and joined me (we have two pillows); Teague will often crawl into my lap and sit there gently. Even with a 40-lb weight in your lap, you can be present. They don’t do it daily, but my kids meditate here and there.
“Learning meditation as a child helps you learn how to calm down, to relax, become more self-aware of emotions, learn self-control, have less aggressive behaviour and less feelings of stress and worry,” says Shirley Archer, a meditation and mindfulness expert based in California.
A school in Baltimore has swapped meditation for detention: when children act out, they are sent to the Mindful Moment room. They are taught to practice breathing to help calm down and to center themselves. “There is a growing body of research showing that teaching children mindfulness skills can help with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities and other behavioural issues,” says Archer. “The school is teaching children self-regulation, rather than punishment. It is wonderful.” And, the benefits of the Baltimore experiment are tangible: since the program launched, there have been zero suspensions.
Teaching your children to meditation isn’t complicated, says Archer. You can gently increase the amount of time spent meditating as you develop a practice together.
- Meet the child at his or her level: “Make up a meditation game! My mom used to tell us that we were going to pretend to be dead fish,” says Archer. “We had to sit as still and quietly as possible. The winner was the one who did it best. As kids we never thought we were lying down silently. We were playing a game and wanted to win!”
- Use music that is calm, soothing and without words, or music that the child already knows and is familiar. There are also many apps, such as Insight Timer, that have guided meditations for children.
- Have a child grab their favorite stuffed toy. Lying flat on their back, put the toy on the child’s belly. Tell them to keep their eyes closed, breathe deeply and feel their friend rise, and fall. Get them into deep belly breathing!
- Buy your child a special meditation pillow that is their very own, and find a spot where they can sit quietly.
- Be sure to praise your child and make it fun and happy.
By bringing meditation into your children’s life, you will reap the benefits: significant evidence shows that consistent meditation improves ones ability to focus and concentrate, boosts the immune system, and in general people who meditate become more self-aware and make better health choices. Meditation also lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, helps with depression, reduces the risk of heart disease, and can even lower blood sugar, thereby reducing diabetes risks. Regular meditation leads to a more positive outlook, better mood, and less stress which all contribute to a happier life.
After Lily finished her meditation, she opened her eyes and stared at me – she was noticeably calmer, more at peace and had a look in her eyes that can only be described as love.
Why wouldn’t you want more love in your life? ❤