If you’ve read any of my other posts you may be able to detect an underlying theme in them concerning sleep, or our lack there of. My son is not, and never has been a good sleeper. He’s one of those kids that seems to wake up between almost every sleep cycle, rarely sleeping for more than two in a row. And as kids’ sleep cycles are only 45 minutes long you can imagine how little sleep I get. But things seem to be looking up lately, touch wood, as I’ve started implementing a few new practices. Guided meditation for children is one of them.
What Is Meditation?
Up until recently many people in the West have resisted the idea of meditation, thinking of it as something a bit woo woo and New Agey, but in the East it’s been a common practice for centuries. Numerous religions use it as a path towards enlightenment and self realisation.
Since the early 19th century the practice and its techniques have spread from Asia to other cultures and we’ve started to use them in a non-religious context. The word Meditation comes from the from Latin verb Meditari, meaning “to think, contemplate, devise or ponder”.
The goal is to focus the mind on a particular thought, object or activity so that we can gain some mental clarity and calm our constant overthinking.
In the West we classify meditation techniques into two broad categories:
- Focused Meditation – remaining still and focusing on the breath, on an object or on a mantra
- Open Monitoring Meditation – focusing attention on experiences in the present moment without thought or judgement
How Do You Do It?
You’re probably imagining some yogi sitting cross-legged and chanting Omm, but you might be surprised to know that we all have moments of meditation nearly every day without even realising it. They normally occur when you’re doing something that you really enjoy.
Maybe you’re deep into a good book, or you’re playing with your kids in the garden. You could be listening to your favourite album while you workout, or up to your elbows in flour baking a cake. It’s those moments where time flies by and you don’t even notice. You haven’t thought about anything other than what you’re doing in that exact moment. You’re completely present. You are in the flow.
Mindfulness has become the buzzword over the last decade or so, and this is a simple meditation technique that is quite easy to apply in day to day life. It’s basically another exercise in staying present. Try it out during those mundane, everyday moments like brushing your teeth or doing the washing up.
Whilst performing these activities really focus the sensations. Clean every tooth thoroughly, feeling the brushstrokes and tasting the toothpaste. Feel the water on your hands as you wash the dishes, really see the bubbles and smell the scents. Try to remain focused on what you are doing and feeling, without letting your thoughts wander.
There are many ways to practice each type of meditation, some easier than others. I know from personal experience that it’s very hard to practice focused meditation, especially when you’re just starting out. It seems impossible to switch off your thoughts and the harder you try to stop thinking, the more you think.
Something I’ve learned along the way though is that you don’t have to stop thinking, you just have to learn to accept the thoughts and then let them pass by, without getting caught up in the story. You can imagine your mind is a clear sky and your thoughts are clouds that are just passing through. Still tricky but easier than no thoughts at all.
If you’re looking for the easiest way to implement meditation into your life, and to get your kids to try it, then you need to try guided meditation.
What Is Guided Meditation?
Guided meditation is when you lie back and listen as someone talks you through a meditation. There is usually visualisation and meditation music or binaural beats involved.
I love a bit of guided meditation when I want to fall asleep or when I just need a little rest during the day. I even got my husband into it and he’s really not a very woo woo person at all.
You can listen to them free on YouTube. You’ll find meditations focused on all different things such as Deep Sleep, Building Self Confidence, Managing Pain, Handling Anxiety, Improving Your Patience. There’s something for everyone. My personal favourites are the ones by Michael Sealey, Jason Stephenson and The Honest Guys. These ones are for adults but I’ll share some links for children’s meditations at the end of the article.
One of the best things about guided meditation is that you can get your kids listening to it. I found one in particular that my son absolutely adores and, although he won’t lay still and listen to it every night, on the nights he does he’s off to dreamland in a matter of minutes. To me that’s a mini miracle.
Meditation Benefits For Kids
The world our children are growing up in is very different from the one we grew up in. Today everything moves at such a fast pace. The internet has made everything accessible at the touch of a button, or should I say screen, and that means our kids are constantly bombarded with stimulus.
Studies suggest that children today sleep one hour less than they did 25 years ago, and as mothers we know what less sleep means. Children have higher levels of stress, they worry more, they have a harder time concentrating. Conditions such as ADHD and hyperactivity are on the rise.
We all need time to recharge the energy that we expend but we tend to forget that in our busy lives. I read a great quote the other day in Brene Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness”. It was from Dr Joan Halifax – a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, activist and author. She and Brene were doing a talk together that night and as she retired to her room to rest Brene felt that she had to go and introduce herself to the people that would be joining them for the talk.
Dr Halifax said:
“Tonight we exhale and teach. Now it’s time to inhale. There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe we must exhale all the time, without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.”
Both us and our children need time to recharge, to switch off from the outside world and go inside. Meditation can help children to fall asleep, but it can do so much more than that. It can help them get to know themselves better and love themselves more, improving their confidence. It can help them to focus so they are better students. It can help them reduce their anxiety and learn how to control their emotions so they don’t become overwhelmed. It can help them become more compassionate, empathetic people.
Meditation can help us all to gain a higher sense of well-being and generally just feel happier. It’s such a simple practice with so many benefits, isn’t it worth giving it a try?
How To Meditate With Kids
My son isn’t quite two yet so I don’t expect him to sit still for any length of time and meditate with me. That’s why I think guided meditation is so great for the little ones. At bedtime, when he’s starting to get drowsy, I’ll take him to bed and lay with him while we listen to a meditation. It might take him a few minutes to settle down into it but soon he’s quite happy to just lie there and listen, occasionally humming along to the music.
It usually only takes around 10 minutes for him to fall asleep when we do this. On the days when he doesn’t want to listen I can be in there for up to an hour before he finally gives up the fight and falls asleep. I’d love him to listen to a meditation every night but if he doesn’t want to I won’t force it on him. It wouldn’t work like that anyway.
For toddlers, I’d suggest finding a guided meditation that they like and sticking with it. Children like routine and they seem to enjoy hearing the same thing over and over again. That’s why my husband and I know every Blippi song by heart!
Stay with them while you both listen. Older children might be happy with you leaving them alone for meditation but your little ones will probably prefer to have you around. You want to promote feelings of love and connection. It’s easier to do that if you’re in the room.
You could also try reading a meditation of your child. There are plenty of children’s meditation books available. Just make sure you are in the right frame of mind when you do this. It’s no good if you’re feeling stressed or rushed, your child will soon pick up on that and they won’t be able to relax.
Reading a meditation is great because to your little bub your voice is the sweetest sound they know. It conveys everything they associate with feeling loved and safe. Just keep your voice soft and slow, and remember to take long pauses.
I also found this little video recently that my son seems to like. It’s short and simple and can help kids start to notice their breath and get used to closing their eyes.
Sound observation is a good one. This just involves being still and listening to all the surrounding sounds. What can they hear near them? Which sounds are further away?
Doing a body scan while listening to meditation music for kids can be fun. Get them to start by wriggling their toes and gradually move up the body, focusing on one body part at a time.
In the video below Gabrielle Bernstein has a couple more ideas for helping children to meditate. These are great as they can be learnt as a meditation but then also be used at other times, when kids are feeling overwhelmed, upset or angry, to help them calm down and bring them back into the moment. Because that’s what it’s really all about, staying in the moment and not getting swept up in our thoughts.
There are plenty of free resources on the web where you can listen to guided meditations for children.
Insight Timer has a whole free library which includes a children’s section.
YouTube has loads of free video series:
There are also Children’s Meditation Apps:
- Stop, Think & Breathe
- Smiling Mind
- Thrive Global
- Headspace for Kids
And lastly, Meditation Books:
- Sitting Still Like a Frog
- Meditation Is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids
- A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles
There are loads of resources out there, some free and some paid for. You should have no trouble finding something that you and your little one will love listening to or reading.
When I do research on, and listen to podcasts by, the people I admire they seem to all have one thing in common. They can’t speak highly enough of meditation. They talk about how it has changed their lives and had a deep impact on who they are as people and how they interact with the world. Hearing their thoughts on the subject was enough to make me want to give it a go.
I try to keep it real with you guys so the truth is I don’t do it every day. I haven’t stuck to a schedule and implemented a daily practice into my life as yet, I’m just too disorganised. But I still do it fairly regularly, whenever I have a few minutes and remember I’ll disappear into the bedroom or the garden and just be still for a while. It’s not easy to quiet your thoughts, but that’s why they call it a practice. The more often you do it, the easier it becomes.
When I’m meditating often I do notice a difference in how stable my emotions are. I feel calmer and it takes a lot more to stress me out. I generally just feel more on top of things, better able to cope, better at life. If I can teach my child a way to feel like that too then I’m definitely going to try.
Not only will meditation help your child in the moment, making them feel relaxed and helping them sleep. It will also give them tools to use and a good grounding in how to handle their emotions as they get older. They’ll learn how to stay calm and not get overwhelmed by things. This can be such a wonderful skill for them to develop, especially as they make their way into adolescence. We all know how emotionally intense those years can be.
Meditation isn’t a difficult thing to incorporate into your life. What could be simpler than sitting and listening? But it’s often the things that are easy to do that are also easy not to do. With so many benefits so easily available, you owe it to yourself, and your child, to at least give it a go and see what it can do for you.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with meditation. Do you give value to it? Or do you think it’s a load of mumbo jumbo? Have you introduced your kids to it? If so, how did it go? If you have any tips to share, or any questions, please go right ahead and leave them in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading