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Whether you're a parent, teacher, aunt, grandfather, babysitter or otherwise spend time with kids of any age, try out these three practices to introduce kids to meditation and mindfulness.
Meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices are more popular, and helpful, than ever. Studies have shown that teaching kids mindfulness practices can build students’ attentiveness, respect for fellow classmates, self control, and empathy, all while reducing stress, hyperactive behavior, ADHD symptoms, and depression.
Yet only 1.6 percent of U.S. children meditate, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Giving kids the tools to help them fend off negative thoughts and behaviors, build self-confidence, focus, and treat others and themselves with respect and appreciation is a gift they will have for the rest of their lives.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan instituted the Skills for Life program in Ohio schools to teach deep breathing, meditation, and other problem-solving skills to elementary-aged kids. What they found was that these practices helped kids balance their emotions, cut down on bullying, and increased awareness, and both students and teachers are excited about the program.
Another study done in the San Francisco Unified School District with more than 3,000 students found dramatic improvement in overall academic performance, including a spike in math test scores for students who practiced mindfulness meditation and “quiet time.” In one rough middle school, where gunfire, fighting, and suspension rates were the highest in San Francisco, when “quiet time” was integrated into curriculum, suspension rates dropped by 45 percent, attendance rose, and grades improved significantly.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, aunt, grandfather, babysitter or otherwise spend time with kids of any age, try out these three practices to introduce kids to meditation and mindfulness.
This guided meditation brings a visual component to a very simple deep breathing exercise. You can do this standing or seated.
If the child you’re teaching is younger, you can add a little more detail and fun to the exercise to keep them engaged. Young kids, especially under the age of 6, love the extra movement when they’re learning to bring awareness to their breath. Encourage them to stand up in a relaxed way and follow these steps:
This one will likely elicit giggles and awareness of their breath.
This meditation works best for kids who are at least 5 years old. Ask your child to picture their best friend or a sibling—someone they do everything with or someone they look up to. Then ask them which one (your child or their best friend) usually leads. Usually one friend is the one who decides things—the one who is more of the leader; the other one is the friend who usually follows the leader. Ask them which they are.
If they are the leader, you can tell them to picture themselves as the breath. If they are the follower, you can ask them to picture themselves as the mind. For this example, I’ll pretend that they’ve chosen their big brother as their best bud, and the big brother is the leader.
Say something like, “So you and your big brother do everything together. Let’s pretend that your breath and your mind are best friends, too. And that you are just like the mind—the follower, and your big brother is just like the breath—the leader.” Then follow the steps below to guide them through the meditation.
This practice is great for kids (and adults) of all ages, whether they’re having trouble sleeping, stressed out, sick and in bed, or acting out. It’s based on the progressive muscle relaxation technique that Dr. Edmund Jacobson developed in the 1920’s. It’s used to help alleviate tension when people are in a situation that makes it difficult for them to relax. Guide your kids with these steps:
When you’re finished guiding your child through the relaxation technique, make sure they spend at least a few minutes in quiet, encouraging them to keep their breathing slow and steady.
Download the Chopra Meditation & Well-Being App now for more powerful tools that will help your children find peace and calm in any situation—a skill that will benefit them into adulthood.