An increasing number of children have been showing elevated signs of stress, restlessness, and anxiety starting at a very early age. We know meditation is a great tool to find peace and balance amid our hectic lives. Our kids’ brains are tired, and children of all ages really need opportunities where they can take time out each day “unplugged” to relax and focus. Meditation offers this break and helps kids function more effectively and clearly. Children today also have reported high stress levels. To help them take a break, it is best to encourage parents to share meditation with their children and teachers to incorporate mindfulness training into their lesson plans. The simple act of teaching children how to stop, focus, and just breathe could be one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
Meditation is used to rest the mind, body and spirit. It has many mental, physical, and spiritual benefits. Mindfulness meditation, specifically is gaining a foothold in disease prevention and treatment . A number of studies in school settings have showed improvement in attention and behavior, benefits for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, school performance, sleep, behavior problems, and eating disorders. There are also physical benefits as it calms the nervous system and decreases stress hormones. Studies have shown benefits for gastrointestinal symptoms, obesity, headaches, high blood pressure, pain sensitivity, and immune function.
Meditation does not have a set of rules, but there are some tips that can help.The length of time and frequency of meditating can vary for different people and different practices. But, psychologists typically recommend the following time frames:
Preschool children: A few minutes per day.
Grade school children: 3-10 minutes twice a day.
Teens and adults: 5-45 minutes per day or more based on preference.
Try incorporating deep breathing into your children’s daily bedtime routine—it can help them wind down for the night and make meditation easier to do when other situations arise. Remind grade schoolers and teens to take a few deep breaths before answering a difficult question at school, taking a test, or before an athletic performance . As young children learn to manage strong emotions, deep breathing can be part of the process, especially before and after time outs.
While meditation can be done on your own, it can also be done with the help of a trained professional. With meditation, kids learn how to better manage their bodies, their energy, and their emotions. There is an increase in emotional intelligence, positive outlook of life, and in the ability to regulate oneself. Kids develop better organization skills and learn to be more present and less judgmental, responding rather than reacting to their life events. They feel better, learn better, and sleep better. The skills that will come about as a result of meditation will unfold in many aspects of that child’s life, and will be carried over into the teenage years and on into adulthood. It becomes an integral part of their development and their resources for navigating the world. It helps set them up for a happier and healthier life.
A meditation practice does not require any sophisticated equipment, infrastructure, support system or money. It requires only commitment - to dedicate at least 10 minutes every day. And a small space to sit or stand comfortably.
Simple steps for kids meditation:
1. Sit down comfortably and close your eyes. Bring all of your attention to your breath and slow it down, taking deep inhales and slow exhales.
2. Let’s have the mind follow the breath - no matter what. Picture yourself as your mind, the one that’s following your big brother, your breath. Try to focus your mind on the breath and follow as the breath inhales and exhales.
3. Count your breaths at the end of every exhale. Don’t let your mind count before the end of the exhale. The mind always wants to jump ahead, but don’t let it. Allow it to remain focused on being the follower.
4. Count to 10 slowly, always at the end of each exhale, continuing to let the mind follow the breath.
Meditation as a part of regular teaching can play an important role not only in enabling students to increase their self-awareness, but also in changing their perspective to some extent. We think it is time for schools at all levels to acknowledge meditation practices as an important part of any curriculum for the benefits of students and society as well.