Meditation does require practice. Although the physiological and mental benefits have been scientifically proven, most of us can hardly find the time or patience to commit to a consistent meditation practice. Just because we have a difficult time with it as adults, doesn’t mean that children won’t be open to it. Unlike adults, whose thoughts tend to be logical with a sense of purpose, children are naturally captivated by their own imaginative thoughts.
There are many benefits that meditation offers children. Besides offering them the opportunity to relax, meditation teaches them to be more attentive. It offers them the opportunity to explore their imagination without limitation. It also offers them the opportunity to practice a behavior or work through feelings in their heads prior to having to act them out in the real world. For example, Sarah practices how to feel and let go of her fear of dogs through a meditation so when she interacts with one in real life she is able to cope better with her feelings of anxiety.
To begin, explain to your child that meditation is a big word that can be done in a variety of ways. Tell her it means closing her eyes, breathing calmly and letting her mind wonder to a place she wants it to go. To demonstrate how her mind can take her places, you can have her sit comfortably and close her eyes. Ask her to describe her bedroom to you. After she is finished, explain to her that even though she isn’t in her bedroom, her mind can take her there. That is a little what meditation is like. It can take you to any place you want to be.
The next step is that it’s important to be comfortable. She can pick whether she wants to be sitting or lying down. I suggest that you initially find a special place in your home that will offer both of you the opportunity to be comfortable and experience quiet without interruption for an extended period of time. You wouldn’t want to set up in the family room if big brother is due home with his friends to play Xbox after school.
As she becomes more comfortable with the practice, make sure you explain that she can meditate anywhere. Let her know that if she is feeling stressed or anxious, she can simply close her eyes and take a few deep breaths to help calm herself. She can do this at school, before a soccer game, or waiting in a line. This will give her a great sense of control against the stresses that continually bombard children from the harshness of the “real world.”
There are several books about teaching children how to meditate as well as numerous articles online. Kerry Lee Maclean has written two adorable books for the younger child about meditation. One is called Moody Cow Meditates and the other is Peaceful Piggy Meditation. Another book for slightly older children is one by Gail Silver called Anh’s Anger.
Most importantly, I encourage you to be consistent and find the time to practice on a regular basis. Just as one needs repetition to become good at any skill, so it is with meditation. If you don’t participate in a regular meditation practice, then let your child be your guide. If she is enjoying it, or asks to do it with you and appears to be benefiting from it, then I would encourage you to set aside time on a regular basis to do it with her. Who knows, through the process, she may lead you to a place you need to go. Namaste!