Second of two parts
One night, when my kids were little and fighting sleep, desperation compelled me to conjure some way to make winding down feel like fun. Our `game' became a bedtime ritual. I began by having them stretch out, close their eyes, take three deep breaths and squeeze their toes for a few seconds. They moved up to their legs and through their bodies, gently squeezing and releasing `pairs of parts,' one pair at a time. I suggested they focus on listening to the white noise of the fan.
Deep relaxation and sleep weren't far behind-for any of us.
Little did I know that I was teaching my children to meditate, but it's really that simple. Especially for kids.
"Children are natural meditators," says Tammy Johnson, a children's meditation facilitator based in Batavia.
I encourage you to try it with your kids. Not just because it's relaxing, but because as they grow, it can help them remain grounded. Other benefits include diminished symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and ADHD, and improved sleep, self-esteem and overall health.
Regular meditation also helps kids to focus and manage the challenge of sitting still in school. In fact, many schools have begun incorporating meditation into the school day.
Children as young as 5 can practice meditation on a daily basis, as long as the process is age-appropriate and fun.
Johnson suggests setting aside just 10 minutes for the actual meditation and another 10 for discussion, drawing or writing about the experience. In her experience, children respond well to guided meditations that encourage them to focus their senses.
Johnson encourages families to meditate together because doing so increases harmony, decreases relational stress and strengthens family bonds. Creating meditations that incorporate family members' interests will keep them interesting and fun, so listen for clues about what might work. Walking meditations are perfectly acceptable.
Be sure to allow children to take turns guiding meditations so that everyone gets an opportunity to experience the process from different perspectives.
Afterwards, ask your child if he noticed anything happening in his body: "Do you feel different? Do you think you could do this meditation on your own?" That's the hope, after all, that our kids will know that they can always turn to that still, calm, peaceful place inside whenever life becomes overwhelming.
Part one last month: Your child's intuition
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia. Got a concern? If you’re a parent and it’s on your mind, chances are you are not alone. Send questions to email@example.com.