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Children and Families #5: Mindfulness Meditation for Children

Helping Your Child be Mindful and Calm

In the past 10 or 20 years, meditation, once associated only with Eastern religious practice, has morphed into “mindfulness meditation,” but it is still the same practice, and it still has the same goals. The practice involves focus, slowing heartbeat and breathing, and observing both internal and external experience. The goals are increased self awareness, greater sense of calm and relaxation, and an ability to temporarily detach from overwhelming emotions.

Many adults around the world have adopted the practice of meditating often, sometimes daily. This very useful practice has not, however, yet caught on among parents and their young children. I’m writing this to help you and your child get started, and to encourage you to do so.

First, why would you want to do this with your child? Meditation has all the advantages for your child that it has for adults: calm, self-awareness, and an increased ability to manage stress, both internal and external. If your child is hyperactive, or is simply not able to sit still, tends to show his or her displeasure or disappointment in dramatic ways, or is easily upset, meditation or a one of its variants can be extraordinarily helpful and much safer than medication.

Here’s how to get started:

Tell your child that you are going to do a new activity together. Keep it positive and fun. It must not be a punishment or a way to fix something that your child is doing wrong. If your child is a Star Wars fan, call it Jedi training (which it in fact is).
Begin with a very short practice, only 2 or 3 minutes
Find a comfortable and quiet spot, as free from distractions as possible.
Let your child choose his or her own seating.
Say: “Okay we’re going to breath together in a special way. Each time I count, we’ll take a breath together.” If you are familiar with the sort of breathing that singes use, from the diaphragm, use that and show your child how to breath that way too. Inhale slowly and then exhale slowly, counting on the exhale. Continue to the count of 20, or 10 if your child is getting antsy. Ask how he or she feels. Tell your child how well he or she did.
That’s it. Try to repeat at least once a day-twice is better-gradually increasing the length of time you breath together.
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