Teaching meditation to your child is giving him or her a skill for life. A calm, relaxed place inside themselves where they will be able to go and find peace, in all circumstances of their life. A true gift.
The many benefits of a regular meditation practice for kids are well known
– but how to
motivate them to
start in the first place?
Being a notorious list-lover, I put down few bullet points – for children under five, six to twelve year olds and teen-agers:
1. The sooner they start, the better. So there is no time to waste: start today – together!
If the child is under five, you are in the magic window of many opportunities. She/he sees you like God on earth, so take the time to sit on a cushion side by side for a couple of minutes, eyes closed, noticing your breath. Listening to the breath. Feeling the tummy slowly raising with the breath. Make it fun and sweet and short. They will ask you for more, guaranteed.
Six to twelve year old kids will be more likely to sustain a seated position for a bit longer, and they would listen to your instructions and be probably eager to make you proud of their achievements. Remember to stress that meditation, as yoga, is never a competition. Nonetheless, praise the child and make it clear that meditation is a noble practice – and a happiness booster!
Even if your child is a teenager: it is not too late. It is not too difficult. Find a nice quiet corner of your home or garden. Crossed legs position, eyes closed, just be silent with him or her. In your mind’s eye, visualize your child: the traits of him or her that are already similar to an adult and the traits that are child-like. Honor both parts, and silently send your child respect and love and nurturing recognitions in the difficult and beautiful chapter of life that is adolescence.
When you both are in contact with your breath, gently direct the attention of the child towards the noises around you – a bird in the distance, a washing machine, the neighbors talking next door, anything. Notice the noises together, then let the noises go. Teen-agers can go very deep in their meditation and reach a profound sense of peace for a relatively long period of time, so just encourage your child but don’t interfere too much.
2. Start with just few minutes.
As a rule of thumb, as many minutes as the age of the child divided by two. For a ten year old, don’t expect her or him to do more than five minutes meditation, especially at first.
3. You don’t need props. Nothing really. If you have a floor to sit on and a couple of eyes to close, you have all you need.
If you really feel you need some security blanket…
You can put some soothing music on, like white noises or sounds of nature – birds, wind, rain and so on. I personally found the music sometimes too distracting for the child.
You can chose to
download a meditation app. This can be a helpful tool to
start with, if you don’t want to
guide your child yourself. Calm
is a good one, as it is Headspace
. There are plenty out there, just explore and find the right one for your child.
You can have a special cushion or mat, that will be your special meditation place. It might help the child to connect quickly into a relaxed state once they have tried meditation for a few times.
4. Make it light and smile a lot.
Don’t get too serious. This should be as far as possible from homework. Another planet, really. Meditation is fun. Meditation is smile and lightness and cheerful faces and being comfortable and happy in our own skin.
5. Lead by example!
Your child will know how deeply you benefit from your own meditation practice and she will long to experiment it for herself. She will have seen you being calmer, happier and more patient after meditating. She will be familiar with your own mantras or props or poses and she will be curious. This is the best way to motivate her.
Naturally, these are just few ideas about how to meditate with your child. There will be probably as many way of meditating as many meditators, and we will write often about it as meditation for children is something I dearly believe in.
In the meantime, let me know of you tried mediation with your child using these techniques (or others), and how it went for both of you!
I hope this serves you and your child.