When we close children’s classes at TMAA, we work on basic meditation before bowing out. I’d like to give parents some pointers on how to bring this type of practice home with your children. On a basic level, my intention with the meditation is to offer kids access to relaxation. By slowing their breath and focusing their minds inward, their bodies and minds naturally calm down. By closing class this way, I hope to settle them after a hyper-kinetic class before sending them home.
Meditation is also a powerful mental exercise. By calming the mind and body, children begin to learn the context of focus and concentration. If you’ve ever tried to get your child to sit down and work on homework after playing outside or with video games, you can immediately see the value of this. By opening class this way, I hope to prepare them for an hour of focused attention.
On a deeper level, meditation can be powerfully centering. The meditation that we are doing focuses on the breath. Breathing is a constant that is always with us during our lives. By stopping everything and connecting with it — by engaging its rhythm and feeling how our bodies experience the breathing process — we are able to briefly step out of the hustle and bustle of life and be present in the moment.
In this way, meditation becomes much more than an escape. It actually helps us become more engaged in life because we are able to be more centered and open. (continued below)
I have begun to get feedback on using meditation at home that I would like to share so that you and your child can find ways to make these exercises your own.
One mother has used it before putting her child to bed, finding it useful for calming him down.
Several parents have noticed connections between breathing patterns and ADD behavior. These children tend to lose control of their breathing, panting or even holding their breath when concentration is difficult. By taking a moment and focusing on their breath, these children can settle down more easily for activities that require extended periods of sitting still and staying on task. For these children, taking breaks for meditation and activity that burns excess energy are very important for success.
I was very proud of one student who told me that she started using meditation on her own to calm down when dealing with frustration. She has found it helpful when dealing with sources of anger (such as a younger sibling). I would caution parents who want to work with their children in this way to not make this a punishment (like a time-out). We don’t want children to develop a negative association with a positive exercise.
Finally, I would like parents to consider joining their children in meditation from time to time. In addition to the valuable behavior modeling you will be providing for your child, you will gain a deeper understanding of your child’s experience and be better able to offer guidance — not to mention that everyone can benefit from stopping and taking a breath, even Moms and Dads!