Meditation for kids: does it actually work?
Are your kids climbing the walls, screeching like banshees and wrestling with their siblings? While these are all pretty natural behaviors for little ones, when things start to reach fever pitch or the time comes to wind down for the day, meditation might be the power play you’ve been looking for.
“But my kids will never sit still long enough to meditate!” said every parent ever. Sure, sometimes it can be difficult to get them to focus, but kids are hardwired to benefit from a strong mind-body connection (yoga with the kids, anyone?) – the link between how we feel emotionally, physical symptoms and how we behave (eg. how being scared can cause us to take fast, shallow breaths.) By introducing kids to meditation, you can help them cut through the noise and pace of modern life, slow down and set up a healthy lifelong habit.
To help families find a sense of calm together, Centr has a series of guided meditations for kids – narrated by Chris Hemsworth and actor-director Taika Waititi.
Specifically for kids aged 4 to 9 (but sure to be appreciated by the young at heart, too!), these meditations and sleep visualizations have been developed by a team of psychologists and meditation teachers to help kids think – and act – positive.
Kids are curious and imaginative, and we know from Centr members that many of their children love having meditations and sleep visualizations within the app to call their very own.
So what other benefits can kids get from meditations and sleep visualizations?
1. Regulating emotions
As grown-ups, we (mostly!) know how to regulate our emotions – to bite our tongue, to walk away instead of hitting out, to not get overly upset when we understand something was an accident. Kids are still figuring this stuff out. Meditation can help kids regulate their emotions and reduce impulsive behavior by teaching them that important ‘pause’ or ‘stop and think’ moment between action and reaction.
This, in turn, can help build more resilient kids – who understand that it’s okay to feel sad or to fail, and who have the skills to pick themselves up and think through what to do next.
2. Reduced stress and anxiety
Kids may show it in different ways, but they get stressed and anxious just like we do. Meditation gives children the tools to bring themselves back to a calm and safe space at any time.
Breathing properly – deep, steady breaths, in and out – is one of the most essential tools meditation offers children, and is also useful in everyday life. When kids feel worry or anger rising, they can learn to stop and take a few deep breaths before reacting – a skill they’ll put to use countless times in the years to come.
3. Improved focus
Research into the effects of meditation on children has shown that it can improve concentration and lengthen attention span while reducing hyperactive behaviors. Studies of the use of meditation and mindfulness in a school setting have also shown it can reduce anxiety and boost memory. So if you’re having trouble getting the kids to focus on their schoolwork at home, a bit of movement, followed by meditation and breathing could be a huge help.
4. Unplug from problems
Our digital world is full of distractions and constant jumping around between different screens, soundbites and thoughts mean we often have an inability to focus. This is known as ‘monkey mind’. Meditation helps bring kids back to the present moment and a single thought track, taming the monkey.
It’s not just about unplugging from digital devices. Small problems can feel overwhelming for kids – by getting away from worry for a moment, they can get a little perspective and regain control of their thoughts.
5. A chance to rest
Kids have energy to burn, but just like their bodies, their minds need time to rest. Meditation can help teach them the value of quiet time – for their creativity (stoking their imaginations), their independence and confidence (realizing they can face challenges and do things on their own), their emotions (avoiding meltdowns) and their focus. Plus, it gives parents a break!
6. Boost physical health & mood
Just as meditation helps adults reduce stress, boost immunity and ease headaches or upset stomachs, it can do the same for children. And we all know a tired kid is a cranky kid – sleep visualizations can help shorten the pre-bed tug of war between parent and child and promote a deeper, more restful sleep. And better sleep reduces stress. It’s a beautiful circle.
7. Improved self-awareness
As well as helping children deal with emotions such as sadness and anger, meditation can boost their self-esteem and self-awareness, helping them to feel happier, more in control and more confident in themselves. And when kids are more connected to themselves, they’re far more likely to feel a connection and show empathy to others.
This all sounds great, right? But how are you supposed to get your kids on board when they refuse to sit still or give up their iPad for a sleep story?
- Firstly, don’t just hit play and walk away – make meditation an activity that you do together, as parent and child. And with sleep visualizations, you can sit or lay with your child as you would when reading a bedtime story.
- Next, lead by example. If you haven’t already, incorporate meditations and sleep visualizations into your day. If you’re constantly frazzled and stressed, your kids will absorb that same energy. Just as your kids see you being active and want to join in on your workouts, they’ll take an interest in this, too.
- After a meditation, take the time to reflect and talk it over with your child. If it was a kindness meditation, you might ask who they were sending their love out to and why. Or you might discuss how calming their breathing was and how the same kind of breathing might be useful next time they’re upset. You could also talk beforehand about why now is a good time for meditation and how it might help.
- Meditate their way – there is no right or wrong way to do it. They don’t need to close their eyes or lie down. They may want to have their teddy bear with them or need something to look at. They might interact, or listen quietly. Find their happy meditation space (which could be an actual physical spot in your house) and go with it.
- Have patience. Kids may fidget, get up or get distracted part-way through – just remind them to focus and breathe. With regular practice, they’ll relax into it.
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