Everyone is familiar with meditation and its many benefits, but lately, studies have suggested that calming our mind and learning to be present are skills we should be teaching our kids. There have been numerous studies published over the past 10 years that prove the benefits it has on children, from increasing their attention to improving their grades. According to Jessica Bartram, founder of KidsWhoMeditate.com, meditation teaches children to be calmer, less frustrated, and more focused. “Children who do this regularly will notice they are more tolerant and patient in frustrating situations,” she told First for Women. “Their grades improve, they’re more creative and able to ‘think outside the box,’ and they’re able to regulate their emotions better than many of their peers.”
With science backing up the hype, many parents want to jump on the bandwagon, too. But if getting your child, especially very young ones, to sit still with no TV or iPad seems like an impossible task, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s a lot easier than you think. Below, six quick tips on how to easily introduce meditation to your kids without boring them.
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Lead by example.
The first step to getting your child to meditate is to practice what you preach. Since you'll be your child's teacher in introducing them to the world of guided meditation, it helps to brush up on some simple breathing exercises and try them out for yourself. If you're not one for heavy researching or reading, no worries. There's an app for that.
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Use books and apps to help make the introduction easier.
Although there are lots of classes and programs you can take, if you're a busy mom, meditation books like Peaceful Piggy are a good place to start teaching your child mindfulness concepts at a level they'll understand. There are also apps like Sesame Street's Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame that teaches children breathing exercises.
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Start off with easy guided meditation exercises.
Once you're ready to introduce meditation into your child's life, start off with a simple meditation that you do with your child before bed. Simply sit with them, play a short meditation, and then ask them how they feel afterward. If your child is being uncooperative, get creative. "If they don't want to close their eyes, have them focus on a spot on the wall," Jessica said. "If they don't want to sit down, let them lay down instead."
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Make it fun!
If your child isn't old enough or calm enough to sit through a guided meditation, it's important to make the exercise seem like a game and not some burdensome task being forced on them. "In my programs, I tell parents to approach meditation as a fun tool and not a chore," Jessica said. "They have to enjoy it to benefit from it."
A good exercise to start off with is the "bubble" activity. Simply have your child sit up in bed and instruct them to take 10 deep breathes. "Children are very visual so you can get creative with this technique," Jessica said. "Ask them to imagine a bubble inside of their belly and every time they breathe in, the bubble gets bigger as their belly expands. As they exhale, the bubble gets smaller as their belly relaxes. You can even remind them to breath slow because 'fast movements will pop the bubble.'"
After 10 breaths, ask your child to repeat one sentence three times, such as, "I am relaxed and ready for a good night's sleep."
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Use affirmations for hyper children.
Just because your child is energetic doesn't mean you can't teach them meditation. For parents who have children who just won't sit still, affirmations, which are positive sentences that are repeated to override present thoughts, are a good trick. "They allow their mind to focus on what they want instead of how they are feeling at that particular time," Jessica said. "A great affirmation for hyper children is, 'I am calm. It's easy for me to relax and pay attention.' A great time to say them is before bed and in the car on the way to school!"
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The more your child practices, the better they'll be at being "still."
The main goal of child meditation practices is for children to become comfortable with the concept of stillness in both body and mind. Through a combination of guided meditations and affirmations, and time, your child will learn that calmness isn't scary. And once they learn, they'll be more likely to actually fully devote themselves to meditation. "When a child is comfortable being still and sitting with their own thoughts, they will be more likely to actually do it," Jessica said.