Stop. Breathe. Think. Meditation and Mindfulness for Children

As a meditation teacher and spiritual empowerment coach, one of the questions I often get asked is, ‘how can I help my children meditate?’ The goal of meditation at any age is to calm and stabilise the mind, so as with any behaviour, parents need to demonstrate a commitment to deeper self-awareness first. If you model a meditation practice, your children will learn one too.

Teaching children meditation and mindfulness is one of the most important tools you can give them, a tool which they can use for the rest of their lives, helping them to recognise stress signals from a young age and responding with practices that bring the body and mind back into balance. Children are more spiritually connected than adults because they haven’t accumulated years of layered limiting beliefs and ego driven behaviour. With continued practice and repetition, it’s easier for children to get into the meditation zone since they are still so connected to their inner voice.

One of the best and quickest ways for kids to slow down physically is to get them to consciously focus on slowing down the breath. As the mind slows down to follow the breath, so does the body to follow the mind. If you teach kids the tools of deep breathing, you are imprinting the skills of allowing them to create space in their mind and body for inner peace and calmness.

Connecting to the Breath

A good way to do this for younger kids (3-7 years) is the Teddy Bear Belly Breathing Exercise. With your child’s favourite teddy, get them to lie down and place their teddy on their belly. The aim is to get the teddy to move up and down as your child inhales and exhales deeply from their belly rather than through their chest. As they breathe in, the belly expands and teddy rises. As they breathe out, the belly withdraws and teddy lowers. Not only is this an effective exercise in learning how to breathe deeply, but it also introduces them to present moment awareness (as they are focusing on watching teddy go up and down) and is great for lowering anxiety.

For older children (8-12 years), you can teach them the importance of breathing in the right way. Explain that when we’re breathing correctly, inhaling through our nose, our belly expands like a balloon. And when we exhale through our nose, our belly gets pulled back to the spine and our balloon deflates. Once they have a grasp of this, move onto the bear breath, breathing in through the nose for 4 counts, holding the breath for 4 counts and slowly releasing the breath for 4 counts, always through the nose.

This is a wonderful breathing technique to help children focus when they are doing homework, before going to sleep or when they just need a break if they’re feeling stressed, angry, or sad. Slowing down the breath allows for more oxygen to go to the brain, creating more mental clarity.

Meditation

Numerous studies in neuroscience suggest that meditation can have its greatest impact on cognition when the brain is in its earliest stages of development. So there’s no better time to start this practice with your little one than now. The more you practice meditation with your child, the more you and your child can reap all the physical, emotional, and mental benefits the practice brings.

Meditation can help children find a calm and peaceful mental space while sitting still, even for just a moment. Meditating even for a few minutes can do wonders—for both adults and kids; although it might be challenging at first to get a rowdy toddler to stay still, children are fast learners. As long as you keep at it, they’ll definitely improve each day.

Younger children love stories. The Peaceful Piggy Meditation is a great book not only for teaching children how to meditate, but also to help them understand emotions and how meditation helps them calm down. As you read the story, get them to try to sit up and meditate like the little piggies in the book. Once you have finished reading, spend some time (anything between 30 seconds and 2 minutes) in a quiet, upright meditation.  

For older children (8+), you can introduce calming, guided visualisations; there are a host of guided visualisations on YouTube which you can simply play to them or you can create your own. The Light Bath Meditation is a really lovely one, helping children to fill their entire bodies with positive, radiating energy, love and light.

Guide them to lie down on their backs and take them on a journey. Tell them to breathe into any areas of their body that feels tense, allowing themselves to release any negative energy and letting inner peace flow through the top of their head in the form of a pink light. Then guide that pink light through every part in their body, inviting them to breathe into each space and giving awareness to each major body part (eyes, ears, mouth, arms, heart, legs brain).

Have them breathe in love, and then release love to all their friends and family, and then breathe in happiness and bless all their friends and family with happiness. Breathe in forgiveness and as they breathe out, send this forgiveness to all those who have hurt them. End the practice by giving thanks for all the wonderful abilities we have that help us be happy, healthy and whole and say an affirmation together as they create a protective bubble around themselves. Something like: “From my head to my toes, I’m happy, healthy and whole’’, guiding them at the same time to touch their head and feet as they create a protective bubble around themselves. There are a couple of good resources I recommend which will help you with your children’s meditation journey. Stop, Breathe & Think is a great free app which helps kids with focus, peaceful sleep and how to check in with themselves. Mindful Kids is another resource which has a lot of lovely videos to help with sleep and positive affirmations. My favourite is

Connecting to Feelings

As children grow and change, it’s fascinating how much the outside world can shape a child’s development. Learning experiences and environmental factors help little humans develop their emotions and feelings and it is from here that they then learn how to react and respond appropriately. This is why we should be mindful of how we talk to our toddlers and the importance of guiding them through identifying and understanding their feelings.

It’s important for children to be able to verbalise their emotions and feelings so they can connect to their happiness, anger, frustration and pain. Sometimes children won’t even know how they feel, and that’s okay and although their vocabulary may be limited, it’s through our ability as parents and adults to be fully present that we can truly understand how they are feeling based on the energy they are displaying.

A really lovely practice for this is the Lotus Flower Exercise (3-8-year olds) Get your child to replicate and create the lotus mudra (hand position) by touching their pinkies and thumbs together to create a lotus flower. Then get them to take a deep breath of their flower and imagine the flower’s scent, after which you can ask questions about how they feel, what colour they feel like, and what their favourite thing is that happened that day, to get an idea of their energy level and how they’re feeling at the moment.

By helping toddlers become emotional detectives, they learn how to react and regulate themselves in positive ways. When children are taught to name their feelings, not only do they learn new emotional vocabulary to express themselves, they also develop a heightened awareness of the strange things they may be experiencing in their bodies. Eventually, they will be able to explain why they feel a certain way. Say your child gets angry during a playdate; you can say something like, “I can see that you were angry when that child took your toy away from you.’’ Doing this allows them to try to understand themselves on a deeper level as they explore why they felt that way in that particular situation. Over time, they learn how to step back from intense emotions, identifying and accepting them, rather than fighting how they feel.

Gratitude

Encouraging children from a young age to adopt an attitude of gratitude is one of the simplest ways to boost mood and increase happiness. Gratitude isn’t just about being thankful when someone does something nice for you or gives you something. Cultivating gratitude means having a deep sense of appreciation for life – regardless if things are good or bad, tangible or intangible. Whenever you talk about what you’re thankful for in life, you’re also acknowledging the beauty and goodness you see around you.

There are so many ways you can encourage children to express gratitude; Here are some ideas of what you can do to make it a daily habit:

  • During dinner, everyone shares one thing they’re grateful for from their day.
  • At bedtime, ask your child to say three things they feel grateful for; older children can also write three things in a special gratitude journal.
  • On Saturday mornings, everyone writes a note of appreciation to someone for a specific reason

You can also start a family gratitude jar that everyone in the family contributes to. Keep a jar in an easily accessible place and keep some slips of paper handy. Encourage everyone to write down something they’re grateful for (maybe once a day) and put it in the jar. At the end of the week, or once a month, you can read them all together as a family. This is a great way to honour all the good things happening in everyone’s lives and by listening to the things everyone is grateful for, this can encourage even more gratitude in the family and foster a habit that will have far reaching benefits on your and your children’s emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

As the caretakers of the future, we, as adults, have an important responsibility to raise our own consciousness and lay the foundation to create the conditions for our children to thrive. By incorporating meditation, mindfulness and gratitude practices into your children’s daily life, you will witness them grow into intelligent young individuals who navigate the world with consciousness, gratitude, and kindness.

If you are interested in beginning your own meditation journey, check out my next free online meditation session below.

Click here to register for my free online meditation session

With much love and light,

Patrizia  x

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