Relaxation Through Meditation – For Kids
Life these days is busy! Working, shopping, running errands, emailing, housework, cooking, dropping kids off at sport practice, pre-school and school… Wow, exhausted yet? Well our kids are often on this stressful ride with us and unfortunately have their own overscheduled daily routines.
Just like adults kids feel stress and exhaustion which manifests into all sorts of behaviours. Some kids become emotional, some become lethargic and others do the opposite of what you would expect. They become so wound up their behaviour becomes overwhelmingly excitable and uncontrollable.
Just as you need down time, so do your kids. By now you’ve probably figured out what your kids find relaxing and how they recharge their batteries. It is important to give them time to do these things so they can re-energise and face another day.
If you would like to take your child’s relaxation a little further and give them techniques to cope with stressful situations in daily life, why not try meditation.
Meditation for Kids? Why?
Meditation isn’t just for hippies, it’s for everyone!
With a bit of practice meditation is really easy for your child to do. It’s fun for them and best of all, it will really help your child wind down and cope better with anxiety, stress and exhaustion.
Consider the following from Carol Carlson, a Kundalini yoga instructor who has many years experience working with all age groups.
“Meditation can provide for children a sense of calm and when taught at an early age (before 8 years), can enhance their learning ability and other areas of their lives. Their concentration would improve, their artistic abilities would develop, they would feel more centred and their day dreaming would be constructive. Meditation is a time for reflection and contemplation- a time to go within. Everyone can do it. Meditation is very simple; it means sitting or lying quietly, wearing loose clothing for comfort. It is wise not to cross your limbs as this can lead to discomfort.
You an choose soothing music or silence. Meditation is a soothing, relaxing way of coping with stress and anxiety in daily life. Meditation will give children much pleasure, and will assist them in building self-esteem, and provide them with a sense of peace and harmony.” (Carol Carlson, unknown source)
Meditation will teach children how to bring a sense of calm to their whole body (the inside and outside) and how to bring these two into line for total relaxation.
Meditation allows children to respond positively to the demands in their everyday life by increasing their ability to cope. It’s also great for constructing a healthy awareness of their bodies and how their bodies function.
Meditation with children can take many different forms, which is lucky because a 30 minute mediation is not going to suit a 3 year old is it? The key with meditation is taking baby steps. Start with just a few minutes, increasing this period as your child practices and becomes accustomed to it. Not all children will become a ‘mediation master’ immediately. It takes time and practice for them to learn. Children who are particularly energetic and find it hard to sit still may resist meditation to begin with. They just aren’t used to this type of relaxing activity. However, it is these children who often need it the most. Keep encouraging them and they will eventually learn how to become calm.a
Getting Ready for Meditation
You could determine a time of day or week (depending on how often you plan to do this) for meditation. Sometimes it’s nice to be ritualistic about when to do meditation as your child knows what’s coming up, making it easier for them to get into it. If your schedule doesn’t allow this, don’t worry, meditation can be done at any time.
When you start doing meditation with your child discuss with them what it’s all about and why it is good for us. The K.I.S.S method should apply here (Keep It Simple Silly). Describe it in very simple terms and of course with a positive spin.
You can also offer other ritualistic objects to help your child move into meditation mode. They may have a soft blanket, a teddy, a piece of special jewellery, a glass wishing stone, crystal, gem stone, etc. that they can hold, or wear, that symbolises that it’s time for meditation. They may even enjoy the ritual of having a candle lit and incense burning when they meditate. The more enticing you can make it in the beginning, the better.
Help your child get comfortable in a place with little noise and distractions, that is dimly lit. You can choose a bed, couch, fluffy rug, yoga mat, etc. that allows them to lay flat on their back.
Make sure their clothing is comfortable and doesn’t have distracting cords, bells and buttons. We all know kids like to fiddle with these things.
You can play relaxing music in the background if you desire. Encourage your child to close their eyes, be still and relax.
Remember during meditation to use a soft, nurturing and calm voice. Try to speak slowly and reassuringly so your child feels relaxed and safe.
Choose your Mediation
Teaching your child to control their breathing helps them to calm their mind and body. Taking slow deep breathes is an excellent way to increase oxygen to the body and bring peace. Having awareness and control over their own breathing means they may one day use breath as a relaxation tool to relieve anxiety, stress and emotion in their daily lives. They may even use it to defuse anger or a temper tantrum.
Try this breathing technique at the start of a meditation or as a meditation exercise on its own.
Encourage your child to breath in for 4 counts– “Breath in 2,3,4, breath out 2,3,4,5,6.” If this is too long for your child’s lung capacity, shorten the counts. Make sure that the exhale is slightly longer than the inhale as the exhale breath is the relaxing part of breathing. Inhaling a new breath brings fresh energy and can sometimes be more invigorating than relaxing. Both actions are important but try to focus on the exhale. Do this exercise a few times with your child and then ask them to place their hands on their diaphragm so they can feel themselves control their breathing as air enters and leaves their body.
This requires a little bit of imagination as you will take your child to a very special imaginary place. This type of mediation is a little bit like telling a story so that your child can visualise it in their mind. You will need to use descriptive language and talk about what you are absorbing with your 5 senses.
“Now that you are very still and your eyes are closed, imagine you are about to enter your own secret garden. You are standing at the tall golden gates and as you walk into your secret garden you can feel tiny little pebbles tickling your feet and toes. In the garden you can see the most beautiful yellow roses. They smell deliciously sweet…”
Take your child on a journey. Throughout the meditation/visualisation make sure you pause to create some quiet moments. This will allow your child’s mind to imagine and wander.
From time to time during your story, you could bring their attention back to their breathing.
“Let’s now feel our breathing– Breath in 2,3,4, breath out 2,3,4,5,6.”
(Repeat as many times as you like).
When you feel as though the creative visualisation is nearing an end, finish off by saying “You may stay there for as long as your heart desires.” This is a nice conclusion and allows your child to exit the meditation in their own time. When they do get up, encourage them to do it slowly and quietly. Afterwards your child may want to draw or paint the journey they have been on or maybe they might want to help you write a script for their next visualisation.
There are so many different themes for creative visualisation. The beach, flying, swimming in a rock pool, climbing a tree, entering space, etc.
A really powerful way to use creative visualisation is to help children visualise themselves managing their emotions and lives positively. Visualisation might include scenarios where your child is: achieving a goal (visualise speaking in front of their preschool group); feeling good about themselves (to increase confidence and self-esteem); managing fears and anxiety (when feeling threatened, imagine a giant lion standing with them) and overcoming problems (visualise success over the issue).
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Meditation is great for children to discover their bodies and develop an understanding of how it feels in different states. During progressive muscle relaxation encourage your child to feel the relaxation of various muscle groups. Start at the feet or head and progressively move up or down through each muscle groups.
“Now that you are very still and your eyes are closed, feel your body relax.
Concentrate on your feet. Feel them getting heavy, so heavy, they feel as though they are sinking into the floor/bed. (Pause) They are now relaxed. (Pause)
Now lets concentrate on your legs. Feel them getting heavy, so heavy they feel as though they are sinking into the floor/bed. (Pause) They are now relaxed. “(Pause)
Continue with the rest of the body. To finish off you could say, “You may stay here for as long as your heart desires.”
If your child is capable you can use the same technique, but instead of thinking about their body parts relaxing they tighten each muscle group for around 3 seconds and then relax. This is called active progressive muscular relaxation.
Go For It
Meditation with children is about helping them to feel relaxed, centered and at peace. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little with storytelling and other things that you feel might relax your child. Just remember, as long as your child is feeling calm and safe, you can’t go wrong.
Written by Emma Butler BECS
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