Ok…. hear us out. If you think that meditating with your kids is impossible, know that public schools around the world are using mindfulness meditation in their curriculum with great success! Even more surprising, many of the programs are for elementary school-aged children.
Kids experience the same health benefits that adults experience when they meditate. Studies found that mindfulness meditation in the classroom reduced stress, anxiety, and lowered rates of depression among students. Use these helpful tips to start a mindfulness meditation practice at home with your children.
7 Tips For Teaching Kids to Meditate
1. Monkey see, monkey do. Children, especially young children, love to copy mom and dad! The best way to get your kids interested in meditation is to meditate around them. Seeing you practice will pique their natural curiosity and, without a doubt, your little shadow will want to mimic your actions and meditate too.
2. Read books about meditation. These days there are plenty of children’s books about meditation. Storytime is a great way to introduce new concepts to children. Peaceful Piggy Meditation and Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean are two excellent books to start with. These books do a great job of explaining meditation basics and introduce children to the concept of emotion. Take a minute to practice mindfulness meditation after you read the stories.
3. Have all the patience in the world. We have to be patient with ourselves when we practice mindfulness meditation because it’s challenging. Remember that it will also be challenging for your little one — especially if they’re just beginning to understand concepts like emotion. Start very, very small with young children. Try to accomplish 30 seconds of meditation and increase the practice in 15 second increments at their pace. With older children, stick with 3-minute mindful meditation sessions.
4. Sitting still is hard! If sitting still is difficult for us, imagine how hard it can be for a child who is bubbling over with joyful energy! Try “criss-cross-applesauce” (sitting with legs crossed) or seated upright in a chair and ask them which is more comfortable. Adults meditate in a number of different positions, including laying down, depending on their personal preference or physical limitations. Your children should also have a choice. It’s okay if their preference is different from your own.
5. Create a special ritual. Some people find that turning meditation practice into a “ritual” solidifies the action, making it a habit. Children are creatures of habit and love to create rituals: They have to arrange their stuffed animals just so. They must to brush their teeth before their bath, not after. The cannot go to bed without exactly three stories and a song. Their natural tendency to create rituals is excellent for teaching meditation. Start by giving them a “special” meditation pillow. Signal the start and end of each session by ringing a bell. Light a candle and let them blow it out when the practice is complete. Each action will help your child focus for the duration of your meditation practice.
6. Learning to breathe. Teaching a child to slow their breath and calm their body is helpful for so many situations outside of meditation. For young children, try breathing exercises throughout the day as a calming technique. Start by having them inhale deeply and tell them to make a long sound on the exhale, such as the sound of a bee buzzing. While small children may not fully grasp the concept of “focusing on the breath,” teaching them to calm the body through the breath is great first step.
7. Stay consistent in your own practice. Echoing back to “monkey see, monkey do,” if your child doesn’t feel like practicing with you one day, don’t force it. Simply continue to be consistent with your mindfulness meditation practice and let them witness your dedication. Modeling consistency is the best way to teach it.
To learn how to start a meditation practice and for more ideas on how to bring mindfulness into your family, visit avsmindfulness.com. Check back for the upcoming release of our premium mindfulness meditation app!