Guest Column

Meditation for Children

By Vidya Reddy

Hello and welcome to the Happiness Corner. We all want happy, healthy lives for our children. Teaching kids how to meditate can give them a jump start to access the many benefits of meditation. Even though today’s kids exhibit elevated levels of restlessness, stress, and anxiety, less than two percent of kids meditate in the U.S. Yet several studies suggest that kids who practice meditation tend to develop positive traits such as increased self-control, better attentiveness in class, and more empathy and respect for others. In addition, meditation may help children manage challenging conditions such as stress, depression, ADHD, and hyperactivity.

Clearly, introducing kids to mindfulness can benefit them now and in the long run. But children should never be forced to meditate, or they may develop the same aversion towards sitting that they often have towards certain cooked vegetables! They should be given the same gentle encouragement that we give ourselves when it comes to our meditation practice. 

Did you know that it’s easy for children to learn mindfulness through guided meditation? Many kids have a natural feel for it. Young kids aren’t burdened by as many biases, barriers or preconceptions, which gives them an edge when it comes to non-judgmental awareness. 

While there hasn’t been as much general research about the effects of mindfulness on kids as on adults, meditation in the classroom has been getting a lot of attention lately. Some schools are experimenting with replacing detention time with meditation. 

Meditation for closeup

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Photo by Pieter Baetens

Dr. Vidya Reddy

Here are a few of the benefits of children’s meditation

--Enhanced focus

In just a generation or two, things have changed so much that our attention spans can’t keep up. Between social media and technological gadgets, kids who grow up with their noses in their devices often find it difficult to focus and remain attentive. Meditation teaches them that it’s possible to direct their attention at one thing at a time, and that it actually feels great not to be distracted.

--Fostering compassion and self-esteem 

Due to pressures and circumstances beyond their control, kids may sometimes feel like they’re not able to pass muster. This can be tough sometimes, especially when a child is bullied or badly teased by others. Most of the insecurities people have as adults can be traced back to their childhoods. The good news is that meditation can bolster children’s feelings of security, empathy, and inner stability, and this, in turn, builds compassion, joy, and self-esteem. Meditation teaches kids – and adults – that right now is enough. 

--Boosting confidence 

Meditation helps kids gain self-awareness and become more confident. The confidence develops naturally when kids learn from their meditation practice that they don’t have to react to all of their thoughts and emotions – they can choose which ones merit their attention and response. Confident kids are better equipped to deal with unfamiliar situations. Thanks to this adaptability, they become better problem solvers and develop a deeper appreciation of life. 

--Building empathy and happiness 

The more you give to those around you, the more you gain. Children’s meditation helps them learn how to share their love with other children. They become more patient and understanding, listen more readily to others, and empathize with them. 

Meditation for white dress

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Photo by Pieter Baetens

Meditation for children has many benefits

--Here’s a great guided meditation, that I call Follow the Leader 

This meditation works best for children who are at least five 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, ask 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.

--Sit down comfortably and close your eyes. 

--Bring all of your attention to your breath and slow it down, taking deep inhales and slow exhales. 

--Let’s have the mind follow the breath – no matter what. Picture yourself as your mind, the one that’s following your big brother, your breath. Try to focus your mind on the breath and follow as the breath inhales and exhales. 

--Count your breaths at the end of every exhale. Don’t let your mind count before the end of the exhale. The mind always wants to jump ahead, but don’t let it. Allow it to remain focused on being the follower. 

--Count to 10 slowly, always at the end of each exhale, continuing to let the mind follow the breath. 

In Peace, Love and Gratitude. 

‘Til next time. 

Dr.Vidya Reddy, ND, AMS, DAC, CLC