Meditation has proven benefits for health and well-being and can be especially beneficial for children, helping them focus, decrease anxiety, and even assist in the treatment of ADHD or PTSD.
Some people may be reluctant to try meditation with young kids because they think it’s complicated or time-consuming, but there are simple meditation practices that are quick and easy to do at home.
"Meditation" describes several different practices. There are variations done lying, sitting, standing, and even walking. The practice may involve a feeling, phrase, or a visual aid that acts as a central point of focus.
Today, one of the most popular forms of meditation is mindfulness, which is about being present in the moment. Mindfulness is a good introduction to meditation for children as it can be incorporated into almost any everyday activity.
Children can practice mindfulness when they're playing a board game or reading a book, getting ready for bed, having breakfast, or traveling to school. The important thing is to take time to appreciate the activity and to recognize the feelings and sensations that come up without getting distracted by the thoughts that pop into their heads.
Another, more specific, way to approach mindfulness is for parents and children to practice breathing exercises together.
Childhood is a time of constant change and development, which can be tough to handle. Meditation is a great way to help children to learn strategies for coping with these changes, their feelings and emotions, and the world around them.
Mindfulness in particular has been proven to improve emotional resilience and lower anxiety levels in children.
At the very earliest stage, parents can practice mindfulness with their babies by being present with them, holding their gaze, and just taking a moment of calm with them. Though the baby can’t participate in the practice, modeling this kind of behavior in a child’s early life can make an impact, and they certainly can pick up on their caregiver's emotional state.
Toddlers can do a little more and may be able to actively participate in practice for a few minutes a day. School-age children may be happy to do more, and teenagers can practice for 45 minutes a day or more if it interests them.
Meditation can help people reduce their stress and anxiety levels, improve their focus and concentration, and balance their emotions, whatever their age.
One study involving children with an average age of 12 found that mindfulness instruction can improve psychological well-being, lower levels of stress and depression, and even reduce symptoms of trauma.
As well as helping children develop emotional intelligence, there’s evidence to suggest that meditation may also help improve school performance. One study found that regular mindfulness-based meditation in a school setting improved the students’ cognitive, emotional and social abilities.
A small study involving students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder concluded that mindfulness training can lead to increased on-task behavior and decreased hyperactive behavior.
Meditation, especially a seated practice, may feel like a big undertaking, but there are ways to make it accessible for children. The most important thing to remember is that everyone will have a different experience of meditation. Some children will be happy to sit quietly with their thoughts, while many will find it difficult, especially if they are not used to it.
A good way to start a seated meditation is with 30 seconds of movement to shake off any excess energy. Then, take some time to find a comfortable position. This will make it easier for children to stay still and focused. Guided meditation may be a good place to start for parents unfamiliar with meditation.
Seated meditation can be challenging for some people, especially children. Forms of meditation involving movement, such as yoga or tai chi, may be more accessible for beginners and children. There are also many guided walking meditations.
Movement meditation is based on the same principles as seated meditation—clearing the mind, paying attention to the body, focusing on the breath—but without the challenge of staying in one place for a long time.
A great way to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life is to build a bedtime routine with elements of mindfulness. This could be as simple as asking the child to share one thing they are grateful for or to describe how the sheets feel on their skin.
A body scan where the child focuses on noticing and relaxing each body part in turn, is a good way to prepare for sleep, regulating the breath and calming the mind.
Children are always watching and learning from the people around them. One of the best ways a parent can teach their child to meditate is to meditate themselves.
Simple things like going for a walk and talking about what you see instead of tomorrow's plans, or eating a meal together without distractions, can be an easy way to practice mindfulness as a family. It might not feel like much, but these small actions will build into healthy habits and may open the door to more engaged meditation practices or, at the least, a strong ability to be in the moment.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.