Want to help your children feel calmer, less stressed and more in touch with their emotions? Health writer and psychotherapist Jennifer Cawley asks the mindfulness experts how you can practice meditation at home.
Meditation isn’t just for grown-ups, it can help children, too. In fact, there are at least 4,000 teachers trained to teach mindfulness meditation in schools in the UK according to Mindfulness in Schools Project, helping to boost empathy and focus in children as young as seven. The results are definitely promising, with multiple studies showing that meditation can help to reduce children’s anxiety and improve their mental health.
Best of all, kids can enjoy the benefits outside the classroom too. Here are five easy ways to get started…
1. Pause to observe your surroundings
The best way to instil healthy habits is by fitting it naturally into your kids’ daily routine. Next time you’re waiting for a bus or sitting in the car with your children, take turns to describe what you see, hear and smell around you – the colours, sounds, smells, shapes, sizes and textures. This helps bring their mind back to the present moment. The act of observing things without judgement is fundamental to most meditation practices.
2. Breathe slow
To help children come into a meditative state, invite them to focus on each ‘in’ and ‘out’ breath. Ask them to place their hand on their stomach and watching it rise and fall. Try doing this for a few minutes in the morning before school. This act of focusing on breathing will help ground kids and calm their nervous systems.
3. Focus on heads, shoulders, knees and toes
Many adult meditation sessions start with a body scan, and this can work for kids too. Online mindfulness initiative Positive Psychology suggests asking children to notice the feeling of their socks or shoes as they sit in a chair and the weight of their feet on the ground. Then direct them to scan up the body, moving their attention to their ankles, shins and calves, again noticing the sensations and the weight of their legs resting on the floor. Move up to the thighs and the pelvis as it rests in contact with the chair. This will not only help them to feel relaxed but also increase their self-awareness.
4. Cause a storm
A key part of growing up is learning the art of self-regulation – independently responding to and coping with the emotional highs and lows of life.
Nick Kientsch, a mindfulness teacher for the Mindfulness in Schools Project suggests using the Mindful Jar technique. “Start by filling a jar with a liquid, then ask your child to add a spoonful of glitter and screw on the lid tightly. Shake the glitter jar and as you watch the particles swirl together, explain that this is what it’s like when our thoughts feel out of control. Then, put the jar on the floor and watch. As the glitter settles, ask them to describe what they see. Explain that the mind is the same – when we can be still for a few minutes it allows our thoughts and feelings to settle and we will feel calm again.”
5. Try ‘beditation’
To help kids clear their minds for sleep, mindfulness practitioner Clare Kelly suggests trying a ‘beditation’ technique. Start with them lying in bed, legs out straight and arms by their sides. Then, ask them to take long, slow breaths – with each exhale, ask them to feel the tension drain out of their limbs. Ask them to feel the weight of their body on the bed. Move up from their toes to the tips of their fingers, asking them to sense any tension, then slowly let it go.
This will help to relax their whole body and improve their quality of sleep. Win-win.
Short on time but want to start practising meditation? Read our guide to getting started in just two minutes.