As a teacher of yoga and mindfulness in schools, I can honestly say that the transformation I witness blows my mind every time. More mindfulness in schools = calmer kids. And more importantly – HAPPIER children.

It’s our responsibility to provide our young ones with the tools they need to build positive and peaceful relationships with themselves and those around them. Teaching children how to be calm also provides them with coping strategies for dealing with difficult emotions and stress. Because lets face it – with the demands of the curriculum, homework and the pressure to keep up with their peers, children can become stressed out too!child-meditation-dalai-lama

But what if your local school has yet to establish a mindfulness/meditation practice with their students? You could suggest that they incorporate this into the curriculum. There are a couple of ways this can be done; schools can book in specialised programs that usually spend a term with the school establishing a yoga or meditation practise. If the school’s budget does not allow for this, an inexpensive way could be through the use of meditation apps such as Smiling Minds or My Light Shines Bright.

You may want to begin a meditation practise with your children at home, and the best way is to lead by example.

Here are my top tips for meditating with your children at home:

Create a peaceful space

It is important that children feel safe when meditating. One way to do this is to create a peaceful place for them to meditate and take some time out. However, it is important that this space is not used as punishment for naughty children. meditation-for-childrenThis is a sacred space for your child to feel comfortable and at ease with themselves. This is a peaceful place where they can remove themselves from the stresses of school or the hustle and bustle of communal areas. For that reason, choose a corner of the house free from televisions and other noisy distractions.

Peaceful props

To encourage your children to use their meditation space, decorate it with some peaceful props. Like adults, children are drawn to beautiful ornaments and items that make them feel happy and comfortable. Some suggestions are:

  • colourful cushions and fabrics
  • statues or framed images of fairies, unicorns, mystical dragons or other items of interest, such as a favourite teddy
  • crystals or colourful glass pebbles
  • a portable stereo with a choice of relaxing, calm music
  • a special lamp safe for children’s use, such as a salt lamp or a night light
  • singing bowl or chimes

Encourage, don’t force

Children are naturally intrigued by anything new, therefore, meditation should be encouraged, rather than forced. If your child wants to get up and leave – allow them to, they will return in time. But as a general rule of thumb, experts recommend children meditate for one minute per year of age eg. 5 years old = 5 minutes. However, each child is different and so in the beginning, I suggest taking a ‘mindful minute’ and then slowly increasing the timeframe until you reach an amount they feel comfortable with.

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Children also learn from those around them. So encourage gentle discussion about why meditation is good for us. eg. ‘It helps us to feel calm, peaceful, healthy and happy etc’  ‘Especially when we have difficult emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness or when we’re having trouble sleeping etc’ This will allow your child to develop an understanding of why we practise mindfulness. Children love to contribute their ideas, so ask them: ‘When could we practise this? How does it make us feel after we’ve taken a mindful minute? What difficult emotions could this help us with?’ You will be surprised at how quickly children come to know the benefits of meditating.

Simple (yet creative) breathing techniques

Since breathing is such an important aspect of mindfulness and meditation, children will need to be taught the basics of focusing on their breath.  Children are very visual, so here are some fun and simple techniques to encourage calmness of breath:

  • ask your child to place their hands on their tummy and say; ‘Imagine you have a balloon in your tummy! What colour is your balloon? Now imagine that as you breath in, you fill your balloon with air and it gets bigger, and as you breath out, you let the air out and the ballon gets smaller. Breath in, your balloon fills with air, breath out, your balloon empties…’ Encourage this for a few breaths, or one minute.
  • Get creative! Imagine you are in a jungle! Can your child do a lion breath? ‘Breath in and make a proud lion chest – now do a silent roar as you let the air go. Let’s do a Daddy lion, now a Mummy lion, which is softer, now a baby lion which is ever so gentle. Now lets continue breathing like baby lions for one minute…’
  • For older children, the analogy of using their breath like an anchor is helpful. ‘When a boat drifts along the water, the anchor helps it to become still. Sometimes our minds drift off, but we can use our breath like an anchor to help our minds become calm and still. Lets practice focussing on our breathing. Shall we count our breaths silently in our heads? In for One…out for Two…in for Three…’

Make it fun!

Mindfulness can be fun, not a chore! There are many ways to make mindfulness fun for your children. Get creative, choose some calming music to play as you meditate together. I recommend a song called A Breath of Stillness which can be found on Spotify, YouTube or downloaded. For younger children, practise other animal breathing techniques, all of which can be found on YouTube such as ‘bird breath’, ‘bee breath’ or ‘dragon breath’. Once the basics of breathing are established, you may want to practise Sun Salutes together and other simple yoga movements, since yoga is simply meditation in movement. But most of all, make it a happy time for you and your family to share and enjoy together!

I hope these techniques have provided you with some ideas to get started. I’d love to hear your contributions about what has and hasn’t worked! So feel free comment below, or share this post with your friends and family if you feel they may benefit from some of these practices.

Namaste,

Hayley

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