Meditation and mindfulness were commonly seen as adult “pursuits” for many years, but that has all started to change. There is an increasing interest in teaching children these methods to help them relax, de-stress and learn how to connect to their own inner source of calm. Teaching children this is not just for the experts who have been practicing for years. In my experience, complete beginners can learn how to teach their children meditation whether they are yoga teachers, school teachers, grandparents or parents. Here are a few simple tips to help you get started:
1. Breath is the anchor – All people who practice and teach meditation know that the breath is the starting and finishing point for all types of meditation. We carry our breath with us in every moment, therefore it becomes our anchor, helps us to focus on the moment rather than be distracted by our thoughts. Children can learn this too – that simply noticing their breath, how their chest rises and falls with the breath, helps them to be in the moment (or if they are younger, getting them to touch with their chest/tummy to notice the breath). In that moment, your child is in their breath and nowhere else. If you do the same, then you are both anchored in that moment together.
2. Learn to let go – Teaching meditation to children is about learning that it is a personal journey for them and you. Children do not always respond in the way we want them to, and meditation is no different. We can guide them on how to sit, close their eyes and so on, but if they do not want to close their eyes, then do not force them. Give them something to look at (on the floor if they are seated or on the ceiling if they are lying down). Ask them to relax their gaze by trying to see out the sides of their eyes (it uses the peripheral vision which helps to relax the brain).
3. Use your imagination – Adults spend a lot of time thinking rationally and analytically, so it can be useful to blow some fresh air through the cobwebs of our imagination! Let’s use our imaginations to create a safe, beautiful place and describe this to children, so that in their imagination they can join us and feel safe, peaceful and curious in that place with us. There is usually no end to our children’s imaginations, so we can let them show us how to use ours.
4. Prepare and be patient – There are many ways or approaches to mindfulness and meditation, but there should be no end “goal.” Set an intention for you and your children, but try not to become attached to it. Instead, let go and let your own curiosity enjoy and notice what you observe. If your children are restless, notice this and perhaps guide them to have more contact with the ground, but sometimes we have to let go and just allow their energy to find their own balance. Sitting still may not come naturally at first, but with some red cushions (good for grounding restless energy) underneath their feet or their body, it will come.
5. Practice as you teach – Teaching meditation is a two-way street. We do not just teach, we learn, too. As you are teaching meditation to your children and you ask them to notice their breath, notice their body and relax their body, you can join in as you ask them to do this. This makes teaching meditation a very valuable experience for all.