Anyone want their kids to sleep better? Er, that’ll be a yes. Throw in less stress, greater happiness, less illness and improved brain function and I don’t think there’s any parent who would say no to all that for their little darlings. The benefits of meditation are so far-reaching and now well documented, it makes total sense to get your kids in on it. It’s just the actual doing it that can be tricky – especially if you’re knackered, have no time, kids have the attention span of a goldfish and so on… Also I used to be put off by the fact that I didn’t have any experience of meditating myself – but really that is no barrier, in fact what a beautiful opportunity 🙂
So I thought I’d share some of things we’ve been doing and resources we’ve been using, with varying degrees of success and some unexpected developments – naked meditation anyone?!
Sitting Meditation with audio track
On a recommendation we tried Sitting Still Like a Frog, Eline Snel’s book and CD for introducing kids (and their parents) to mindfulness. The book uses simple imagery – like the very still yet very aware frog of the title – which children can easily relate to. The CD is a series of short tracks of about 5 minutes each, which variously introduce the concepts of focusing on the breath and the body and then give you lots of opportunities for practice.
Probably a bit above and beyond, but I suggested to the girls that we have a dedicated space for meditation and got their input on where it should be and how to prepare the space. My two love a bit of crafting and embraced this challenge wholeheartedly, immediately making decorations, signs and a little over enthusiastically hanging blankets all over half my bedroom. The chair in the corner of my bedroom is now known as ‘Relaxation Zone’, two spots on the floor at the end of my bed have been named ‘Open Meadow’ and ‘Free Field’ and an enclosed space under some shelves has become ‘Floaty Boaty’ (my fave).
After their hard work creating the space, M and L were super keen to actually use it, so M claimed Relaxation Zone and L hopped into Floaty Boaty, both hidden behind hanging blankets. I was lumped with the less exciting Free Field (but tried not to dwell on it) and we all focused on the relaxing first track of the CD. It was refreshing and very enjoyable to sit quietly with them both and I came out of it feeling calm and connected. They seemed to enjoy it too… so far, so good.
Next time, slightly different. Auntie was round so she joined in, in Open Meadow. L was keen to show off her expertise with some loud and enthusiastic oms. Giggles from M gave her all she needed to take it up a notch by grabbing a fan from the meditation table – the girls had decided our meditation area needed a special table with props such as books, water, a fan (?), a ruler (??) – and fanning herself theatrically and then moving on to fanning all of us in her winsomely silly way. A great exercise for staying focussed on our breath (quite hard while you’re laughing. Or gritting your teeth).
The time after that, M decided naked meditation would be a good idea (not for me – just too cold) and L remembered how much fun she’d had fanning everyone and thought tickling might be even more fun, so pretty much chaos. Not a bad chaos though, it was fun and the girls now love ‘meditating’! We haven’t done it for a couple of weeks now but will definitely come back to this CD and book.
Bedtime Guided Relaxation Meditation
For a while now, the last part of our bedtime routine has been for me to read the kids a short meditation after lights out. We’ve been using a couple of books by Marneta Viegas of Relax Kids which M and L like: Aladdin’s Magic Carpet and The Magic Box. The meditations are actually short guided visualisations, take just a minute or two to read and are based around fairy tales or imagined scenarios. Each one focuses on a different quality and ends with an affirmation, e.g. ‘I am peaceful’, ‘I am unique’, ‘I am calm’ etc.
The theory was, it would help them switch off and they would then easily drift into a wonderfully relaxed sleep… ok, that was optimistic. Getting to sleep has always been a challenge for these kids. I didn’t really think the meditation would actually make them drop off but I hoped it would help, and sometimes it does. But other times, they mess around until I eventually snap at them ‘BE QUIET! IT’S TIME TO RELAX!” in possibly the most unrelaxing tone of voice ever. In any case I think it’s all going in at some level (!) and they’ve usually calmed down a little by the end of it. And it’s another positive experience of meditation for them with nice visualisation practise – a great tool for improving focus and boosting self-confidence – so what’s not to like?! For the time being, we’re continuing with this every night.
Teddy Breathing Meditation
On the nights that M can’t get to sleep after bedtime stories, reading time, meditation, and more reading (the most drawn-out bedtime routine in the world ever? Probably), she sometimes gets scared and a bit panicky. Lately I’ve been trying the Teddy Breathing Meditation with her, which is just getting her to hold a soft toy on her belly, then feel the toy rising and falling with her breath, then imagining her breath is rocking the toy to sleep. It’s a good way to get your child to breathe deeply, focus, and switch off. It works well for M if she’s really tired and I talk through it with her and I’m hoping she might start using it as a technique herself. Could also be a good one to use in the day time with a tired or grumpy younger child.
Whatever the technique it’s got to be good to make relaxation a part of every day. More than the immediate benefits of allowing a child to really feel what it’s like to be quiet and still, it’s also about helping them truly feel their feelings, and see that all feelings, good and bad, come and go. Anger, sadness, frustration – they’re all ok as long as we just let them do their little angry, sad or frustrating thing… and then let them go. Happiness is the same, it comes, does its little happy dance, and at some point gives way to sadness or inbetween-ness again. And that of course is life, in all its wonderful and ridiculous glory. Most of us adults haven’t fully grasped that yet – as we go through our lives suppressing the ‘bad’ and trying desperately to cling on to the ‘good’ and make it last forever – so lucky children who might get a head start! Like these gorgeous beings:
I would love to hear about any experiences you have of meditating with your kids.