By now we have all heard about the amazing benefits of meditation, including stress reduction, better sleep, and improved concentration at work. With so much streaming content, electronic devices, and non-stop news outlets, it is no surprise we are seeing an epidemic in mental health issues and insomnia among adults. We are noticing similar trends in children with difficulty to focus on tasks and hyperactivity.
Meditation can certainly benefit children of all ages. Some preschools have even started incorporating meditation into their daily activities. By teaching our children techniques to achieve a more relaxed state of mind, we are providing tools to help them deal with external stresses and overstimulation that is inevitable in our current era. One important way of teaching and encouraging this valuable tool is to meditate together as a family. Kids often learn best by the watching the example set by their parents. I know your kids may not be able to sit still more than two minutes when you first begin, but with time you will see that they can and will.
Here are some tips on how to incorporate meditation into your family’s routine:
- Set aside dedicated time for meditation. Find a time like Sunday morning, when everyone is in the house and there are no other obligations that prevent everyone from being together.
- Minimize distractions. Electronic devices should be turned off.
- Start with a small time commitment, maybe just five minutes. You will be surprised how this time can seem so much longer!
- Try different forms of meditation to keep it interesting each time. Maybe start with a yoga session and end with a meditation.
- Use a guided meditation app such as Headspace or Calm and put it on speaker. These are generally easy to understand and even have programs just for children.
- Try breathing meditation if your children are young. Have them watch and copy your breathing. Ideally you want to breathe while engaging your diaphragm, which is a large muscle just below your lungs. You know you are doing it right if you see your navel move outward and inward with each breath. You could have them lie down on the floor facing the ceiling and place a small stuffed animal on their abdomen, and ask them if they can make the animal slowly rise and fall with each breath.
- Guided imagery meditation is also really accessible to kids. Have them recall a favorite vacation memory. Tell them to think about what they saw, who they were with, smells, sounds, and imagine as if they were back in that moment. Daydreaming is actually a form of meditation that comes naturally to most children.
- Get feedback from everyone, did they enjoy it, did they find it difficult to keep their mind focused? Maybe have your children choose the type of meditation they prefer next time.
- Provide encouragement and keep doing it. Think about when you first learned to ride a bicycle, and how many times you fell off before getting it right. We should think about meditation in the same way. Even people who have been meditating for decades still find it difficult to calm their mind, but practice makes perfect.
As more things compete for our time and attention, it’s even more important that we find healthy ways of spending time together as a family. While it may feel a little strange at first for everyone, meditating together will certainly provide health benefits for years to come.