Children may always seem to be untroubled and stress-free, but the truth is they can feel stress as much as we, adults, can. Studies show that kids in this generation are more stressed than ever before.
As early as they are born, there’s an abundance of technology that overstimulates their senses—whether through television, cellphone, or with their complex “learning toys” that flash lights and create sounds. As they grow up, children are bombarded with activities, are mostly faced with pressure from friends, and are constantly kept busy by their hurry-up parents. For the most part, an active mind can be helpful, but not unwinding from this stimulation overload can impose unknown harm to their developing brains.
This is why as early as now, it’s important for our children to learn meditation and develop mindfulness—the ability to be aware of oneself’s presence. This helps us focus on our center, and be mentally acknowledging of our emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Believe it or not, children can do it too. Here are some fun and easy techniques to start off your kids with meditation.
Breathing is the most basic way to release stress for adults and children alike. Conscious and meditative breathing gives us mental clarity and helps us be more present with our surroundings. To help your children with this technique, let them close their eyes and imagine a balloon inside their tummy.
Ask them to fill this balloon through their nose in five counts. You can ask them to do big, circular arm movements that signify the balloon is being filled up with air. Once they have breathed in deeply, let them hold their breaths in three counts and then slowly release the air through the nose. You can make hissing sounds as the air releases from their balloon to help them visualize the activity even better.
Practicing gaze for children can improve attention and memorization skills. Although it may seem impossible for little kids who are absolutely fidgety at all times, it can still be done by using our magic tool—candles!
In a dark room, light a stick of candle and have your kid focus on the flame. Let them count every time the flame flickers. Reward them for each time they sit longer. You can also do this by just letting your kid focus consciously at the flame, quietly while breathing deeply. In yogic practice, this is called trataka which translates to “healing and cleansing the eyes.”
A chiming bell is an integral tool in meditation—particularly for religious practices—since time immemorial. Bells are said to be meditation enhancers as they promote a sense of peace and calmness, making an individual easily connect to himself or to a higher being.
Try introducing bell meditation to your kids by asking them to explore its sound. Have your kids sit up tall, with legs crossed, and eyes closed. Encourage them to listen carefully and raise their hands if the ringing stops. You can also help them explore their hearing senses by asking if you are near or far away as you ring the bell, or whether you’re in the left or right.
Also known as Jacobson Relaxation Technique, this type of therapy focuses on tensing and relaxing certain parts of the body so we can be fully aware of our bodily sensations. This was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson and has been used as a relaxation therapy since the 1920s.
To facilitate this with your children, have them sit or lie down in the most comfortable position they can. Then have them close their eyes and reach their right foot. Let the kids grab their five toes in a fist and squeeze them while making two deep breaths. Release tension and relax. Mention to your kids that they can feel a tingling sensation in their feet.
After doing both feet, the kids can move forward several combinations like left and right ankle & calf, left and right knee, or left and right thigh. After this activity, give your children a little quiet time to relax and encourage them to breath slow and steady.
Have you ever tried just staring blankly at the sky as you let your thoughts drift away like clouds? If you did, then good for you. Apparently, it has a relaxing effect and it can help give us a different perspective on our thoughts.
This activity is extremely easy for little children although the downside is they might not be able to sit for longer periods. To do it, just look up in the sky and let them notice how the clouds drift away and be in different forms. While doing this, it’s also important to be in a comfortable position—whether while sitting tall or laying flat on the ground. As always, breathing should be conscious and meditative.
While they’re letting their thoughts drift away, you may also ask them what they feel at the moment. Are they feeling happy or sad? Or it could be any feeling that they wanted to express. Notably, this exercise is best facilitated when the kids are feeling negative emotions.
With all its mind-bending wonders, it’s just fascinating how mother nature works. In fact, by just merely glancing at natural sceneries, you’ll be surprised how you’ll feel relaxed and calm, and this has been scientifically proven time and again.
Studies show that exposure to nature can positively influence mental health. Try going on a walk in the woods with your children and let them consciously observe the wind, trees, flowers or sea.
Grounding, or bare-footing, is also a good mindfulness technique for kids. All they have to do is bask under the warm sun, let the radiance flow into their bodies, and feel the Earth connect to their bodies. One study shows that “reconnection with the Earth's electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being.”
Mantras are words or sounds that we recite over and over to build concentration while meditating. You may probably have heard a common chant before, the “om”, which is traditionally chanted at the beginning and the end of yoga. Interestingly, when chanted correctly, it gives a 432 Hz frequency—the same vibrational frequency for everything throughout the universe.
Expect that your child cannot immediately get the right way to chant “om” but there’s no harm in trying it. Proper pronunciation of the chant is prolonged “awe”, prolonged “oo”, and prolonged “mm”.
If chanting “om” isn’t your thing, try introducing your child to motivational mantras such as “I’m going to be happy today”, “I love life and life loves me” or let them come up with something more personal for themselves.
Yoga is a great exercise for both mind and body. Physically, it allows you to stretch and bend, thereby promoting muscle strength and flexibility. Mentally, it helps improve focus, coordination memory and even regulates depression since one component of yoga is focusing on the present.
Try joining a yoga class for adults and children. Not only will this be a healthy activity, it will also strengthen your bond with your kids. Yoga for children offers enormous benefits as it enhances body awareness and connection with inner self. It also helps kids develop an intimate relationship with their surroundings.
Bedtime meditation is one of the easiest techniques we can teach our kids, and in fact, we might like to try it for ourselves too! When toddlers refuse to be put down or when it’s the end of a tiring day, try to facilitate this technique for a better night’s sleep.
To start, cultivate a calm environment. Keep only the soft lights on and make sure the temperature is not too hot nor cold. If possible, run a soft, calming background music and diffuse age-appropriate aromatherapy. Encourage the kids to do three deep breath repetitions, one at a time, with eyes closed. Relax and let them fall calmly into sleep.
This activity is for older kids like teenagers who are tensed and exhausted with their everyday tasks, or who may have harbored negative feelings in the past. Light bath is a guided meditation that helps one infuse radiating energy, love, and even forgiveness throughout our tensed body.
To facilitate, have the kids sit tall or lie down on their backs as comfortably as they can. Instruct them to identify and feel what parts of their body are feeling most tensed. To relieve this tension, and including all the negative energy they feel, make them feel inner peace and visualize it as a form of light traveling across their bodies. Let the light travel and stay in the mind for a while, then move into body parts like eyes, mouth, ears, legs, and heart.