Tips for Sharing Meditation with Kids
I am often asked .. either (a) how to find time to meditate with the kids around, or (b) how to share meditation with the kids.
I am fully on board with sharing meditation with your kids .. both for their own health and well-being, and for your sanity so you can meditate!
My daughter first joined me in my meditation practice when she would sleep in the car seat, and I would head directly to a nice parking location to meditate. Sure, she wasn’t actually ‘joining me’ .. but I got to meditate and I like to think that she breathed in the calmer, quieter and more aware mum that resulted from my practice.
Later she really did join me when she learnt to climb out of her cot (about 2 year old) and she found me sitting on my meditation cushion in the living room .. quiet and still. Rather a talkative child with a passion for asking questions (still is) on this occasion she didn’t prod or poke me (or jump on me for that matter) but instead pressed herself into my lap and sat patiently. I had opened the blanket I had around my shoulders and wrapped it around her too .. together we sat quietly for a few minutes before I finished my practice and we got on with our day.
She would often join me like this. She didn’t ask for a long time what in fact I was doing. I like to think that she intuitively knew that this was ‘special’ quiet time and enjoyed the moments we spent together in the darkness before the busyness of our day began.
When my daughter was about nine, I enrolled her in a kids yoga class. I knew the teacher and the centre and thought it was a brilliant idea for a child growing quickly (physically) .. an opportunity to connect body and mind, build focus and awareness, flexibility and strength .. she loved it! The class was very dynamic and they expended lots of energy (it’s not all sitting), explored stillness (externally and internally), coloured in mandalas and chanted Om. She dragged along friends from school and became known as a little bit of a hippie.
In 2009 I completed training with Relax Kids .. an amazing program that incorporates movement and stillness for children starting at pre-school level and now expanded up to seniors. Relax Kids offers a wealth of research and resources on their website, and have implemented a range of innovative programs into the British education system.
When is the right time? how long is a piece of string!
My daily meditation practice provided a rhythm in our household that my daughter took to naturally include her, if she chose. Children have a limited attention span and asking a child to sit for a half hour meditation practice is probably inviting resistance. I like Deepak Chopra’s suggestion that you start with a minute for each year of age .. a three-year old could start with a three-minute meditation .. a twelve-year-old could quickly manage a twelve-minute meditation. Slow and steady .. there is no race or finish line ..
this is developing a life skill!
Meditation is a joy .. learning about yourself, resting in that deep stillness within, building resilience and focus, simply being present to the moment .. and everyone can learn to meditate including children!
TIPS FOR SHARING MEDITATION WITH THE KIDS
1. Be the role model
Start right now .. whatever age your child. Just start. No need for detailed explanations or complex practices, just watch the breath for a few minutes. Be consistent, every day or as often as you wish, so that seeing you meditate becomes a natural part of the household’s day.
2. Don’t preach or push
Allow your practice to inspire the kids. Don’t jump into explaining the medical, neurological and psychological reasons for meditating .. just ‘walk the talk’ and turn up for your practice (teaching commitment and perseverance) and IF asked, answer according to the age of the child. It might just be, ‘I am just enjoying the quiet’ .. or ‘I am listening to my body and my thoughts’ ..
3. Group meditation is different
The best approach is to accept that you are now holding a space for others. Expanding your mindful awareness to the energy and presence of others, is a wonderful addition to your regular practice. In this way our kids will witness and experience stillness and calmness through you .. and it teaches us once again about openness, acceptance, kindness and letting go.
4. Chaff for the mill
Things may go astray, your child may need something or may react unexpectedly .. and this can be frustrating for us when we are used to meditating solo. But this is what we practice for .. to handle the distractions that make up life. Take a breath, acknowledge the distraction and move forward with intention – whether that is to the next breath or to the kitchen for toast.
5. Be Prepared
Children are often kept ‘occupied’ through the provision of constant entertainment, activities and piles of toys. Just as we might shut the door, turn off the phone and lower the lights for our practice .. we should remove all potentially dangerous items that kids might pull, climb, knock, swallow or open.
Just as we are going to find it difficult to settle after a day stuck at the desk with our bodies pleading with us for fresh air, a walk or some time at the gym .. don’t ask a child to sit in stillness if they have been cooped up in the house all day waiting for the sunshine (which has finally arrived) to play outside. Similarly it can be hard to relax when hungry, or full of party food, or over-tired.
7. Allowable activities
In the early days it might be helpful to provide another activity that your kids can undertake, while you continue with your meditation practice .. provide them with a favourite toy, a drink or some manageable food and let them know that when they have finished they can quietly do a puzzle or read a book until you have finished. By continuing our practice for a little longer (maybe just a minute or two) we are demonstrating that we are committed – and enjoying – our practice and can happily continue with them in the room (ie. not easily distracted).
8. What Meditation technique?
For younger children, watching or feeling the breath, or listening to the sound of the wind and birds outside, will likely be the best practices to start with. Older/teenage children might be interested in exploring a simple mantra (Let – Go) or a Breath Counting Exercise. If you have a regular personal practice then consider sharing that (personal experience) .. recognising that at first, the physical act of just sitting still can be the ‘practice’ and that quite naturally over time just sitting will lead us to that quiet place within.