For anyone who has ever practiced meditation, it isn't hard to imagine how children might struggle with some of its core tenets. Meditation, after all, is an art that is centered entirely around focus, and children are not exactly known for their ability to focus. There are many kinds of meditation, however, and children are perfectly capable of developing skills that will help them become mindful masters later in life— just remain conscious of the way you are presenting these practices to them.
What Age Should You Introduce Meditation
Children as young as 3 or 4 can understand narratives you provide them regarding their own consciousness. Starting at about age 8, children may become capable of focusing on how it feels to breathe, counting breaths, and sitting for guided visualizations. While very young children can potentially be influenced to become lifelong meditators, they can also become discouraged. You should never present any type of meditation as an unpleasant chore. Kids will pick up on your energy, as well as your enthusiasm for guiding them through whatever practice you have in mind. Proper sleep and activity will also help to create the right mindset for success.
Types of Meditation
The type of meditation that you can successfully practice with your child depends on their present level of activity. Movement-based exercises, for example, are best for times when kids are at their highest energy levels, while guided sleep meditations are best when things are winding down at the end of the day. Some examples of practices for kids ages 3-7 include:
- Practicing basic stretches and yoga poses. Ask them to label what they are feeling both physically and emotionally.
- Asking them about their favorite thing that happened recently and how they feel about it
- Telling them to visualize a sight or scent and guiding their focus by asking them to describe it
- Guiding them to focus on their breath for a few turns before releasing body tension
Practices for ages 8 and up can be a little more complex. Examples might include:
- Having them breathe in through the nose for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and release for 4 counts
- Guiding them to lie down and visualize a brilliant light melting away any negative energy they may have stored up
- Asking them to imagine a ball of energy traveling through their arms, legs, head, and heart
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has no shortage of benefits for those who practice it. While buddhist monks have been using it for thousands of years, science has only just begun to discover its many positive effects on the human body. Because meditation requires an individual to focus on a single source of sensory input at the exclusion of any pent-up worries or fears, it is highly effective at combating stress, anxiety, depression, and other issues. A consistent practice reduces the arousal of the autonomic nervous system, and promotes healthy sleep, focus, and mental objectivity.
Although we sometimes think of children's lives as easier than ours, they are certainly not. Do you remember how hard it was to learn how to read and write for the first time? Kids need all of the help they can get. Just like keeping our physical bodies healthy through eating healthy and exercising, meditation can encourage a positive mental attitude.
If you have hesitated to introduce meditation to your children, there is never a bad time to start. Just think—some people spend their entire lives in a cycle of anxiety and stress. By helping your kids today, you are well ahead of the game.