We’ve heard consistently about the power of a good meditation practice; the ancient technique considered a mental health aid that can assist with everything from anxiety and depression to calming the cravings of addiction. We know it’s great for adults, but one of the new frontiers is passing this practice on to the next generation so they can start early; we’re talking about the benefits of meditation for children.
Question is, how do you teach your child to meditate?
We asked Hope & Grace Initiative Board Member and friend, Dr. Belisa Vranich, renowned clinical psychologist, public speaker, and author of Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health (St. Martin’s Press/Hay House,) to share her tips for helping our little ones to find some mental calm in a very unsettling world:
It’s not easy
“First, you need to acknowledge that this process is really hard. I really give anyone props for even trying to teach their kids to meditate, given that children don’t (and really shouldn’t) stay still just by nature. Children should be moving around a lot, and their attention span is so short that it’s hard to get them to calmly focus for minutes at a time.”
But it’s worth it
“No matter how hard or frustrating it might be, you should focus on why you’re doing it. The benefits of meditation for adults and children are amazing, and the list is huge: everything from helping your brain recover from the day’s events to helping you get in touch with your own emotions. Your intuition gets better. You sleep better at night. The list is endless.
When you’re talking about children, the benefit to an early meditation practice is you can teach them to follow their intuition in a very loud, judgmental world. Older adults might remember Disney’s Jiminy Cricket and his message to let your conscience be your guide. Kids don’t have that anymore; they have video games and Instagram. They have no clue about what their conscience or their intuition even is. That internal compass, knowing what it is and how to use it, is the key to lifelong inner peace and the ability to navigate the world with more ease. I can’t stress how important meditation in children can be.
Focus on moving meditation
“I think the best way to teach kids meditation is to make it a moving meditation, like yoga, tai chi, swimming, or breath work. I’m a huge proponent of yoga and kids; the link of breath to movement is key, but it also teaches children to be quiet both physically and mentally. It’s so important to experience stillness, to learn mindfulness where you’re not thinking about what you did or what you’re going to do. It teaches children to stop and slow down for just a moment.”
“Starting out, I would say just start on 15 seconds of breath work. Start with ‘Inhale, two, three, four, exhale, two, three, four.’ Start with 15 seconds. Work in downward-facing dog or lotus. Get them into a yoga class or have them try the DVDs with you at home. But start early; the benefits are tremendous.”