In a society that prioritizes immediacy and instant gratification, children hardly have time to discover their emotions and connect with themselves. In this way they end up becoming adults who do not know how to manage their feelings and who find it difficult to fully enjoy their surroundings. Therefore, if we want to raise happy children, with healthy self-esteem and emotional balance, it is important to teach them to connect with themselves. And nothing better to achieve it than through meditation!
What is meditation?
Meditation is a mental and spiritual practice that has existed for thousands of years, although it has not been until recently that the Western world has begun to rediscover its benefits. Basically, it is a state of full attention, whether on an external object, thought, breathing or concentrating on oneself, whose main objective is to promote an awareness of the here and now.
Although there are different types of meditation, most techniques focus on the emotional state and self-control. Its purpose is to achieve a state of full awareness of what is perceived and felt in the present. In the field of Psychology, meditation also focuses on enhancing the understanding of internal psychic processes, such as thought, attention and emotions, as a resource to promote self-knowledge.
The benefits of meditation for children
Learning to meditate is an ideal exercise to help children discover their emotions and know their feelings. This simple technique also helps them release excess tension and keeps anxiety at bay. In fact, its regular practice encourages positive emotions and favors a state of inner calm. In addition, it is an excellent exercise to stimulate emotional intelligence .
Meditating is also a good resource for boosting self-control, reducing stress, and fostering empathy, so it’s recommended for kids with oppositional defiant disorder or aggressive behaviors. An investigation carried out by psychologists from the University of Chicago in which more than 270,000 children from 213 schools participated, where meditation programs had been implemented, revealed that this practice improved the social and emotional skills of children.
However, meditation is not only a practice to calm children and teach them to regulate their emotions, it also has implications for their cognitive development. Did you know that children who practice meditation have more focused attention and concentrate better on completing tasks? In fact, meditation is an excellent tool for alleviating the symptoms of poor concentration and hyperactivity in children with ADHD , as revealed by a study conducted at the University of Udine.
In large part, this is due to the changes that meditation generates at the brain level, especially in the regions related to the processing of sensory information, thought, and decision-making. This was corroborated by a study carried out at Harvard University in which it was found that when meditation is practiced, there is a slight thickening in some areas of the cerebral cortex, especially in those related to emotional regulation, memory and learning. .
This means that some areas of the brain develop faster while meditating, which not only stimulates brain maturation in children, but also helps them learn faster and better. So it is not surprising that children who learn to meditate have better academic performance and develop more effective learning strategies.
Five key steps to teach your children to meditate
1. Start with your breath
Learning to regulate the breath is key in any meditation practice, so it should be the first thing you teach children. Ask them to breathe slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth. To make it easier for them, you can recommend that they place a hand on their stomach so they can feel it rise and fall with each breath. It is likely that at first it will be difficult for them, but as they gain skills they will learn to regulate their breathing with ease.
2. Correct posture
Posture is another important factor that children need to control when meditating. The ideal is to meditate sitting on the floor, with your back straight, your head up, your legs crossed but not overlapping, and your hands on both knees. However, it is natural for children to find it difficult to maintain this position for a long time, so you must be flexible in this regard. In the end, the important thing is that your children feel comfortable while practicing meditation.
3. Use external objects
Focusing on breathing or sensory inputs can be very difficult for children, especially if they are taking their first steps in the practice of meditation. A good alternative to help them focus their attention and prevent them from being distracted by stimuli in the environment is to ask them to focus on an object. It can be a stone, a vase or a drawing, the idea is that the little ones focus their attention on that object for at least 5 minutes. When they are able to focus their attention on an external object for 10 minutes or more, they are ready to focus on their own emotions and sensations.
4. Use your imagination
Meditation is a perfect time to be creative and let your imagination run wild. Think of a beautiful landscape and describe it to the child, making him a part of the experience. If it is a marine environment, describe how the warm sea water touches their feet, while if it is a jungle environment, you can detail how the leaves of the trees brush their skin. Also make him notice the smells and other stimuli that help him recreate the place and imagine that he is really there. Other equally effective resources are relaxing melodies or mantras.
5. Set the example
There is no better way to teach children to meditate than doing it together with them. So if you want to motivate your kids to meditate, sit down with them and show them how it’s done. At least the first few times, it is important that you describe each step to them as it is very easy to overlook important details such as posture or breathing. Once the children have mastered the technique, limit yourself to giving more specific directions so that they can concentrate without distractions.