According to a recent statistic released by the American Academy of Pediatrics,
"as many as 30 percent of children and young adults will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime1".
This means that it falls upon parents and other caregivers to teach our children good stress-reducing habits.
One of the best ways to do this is with meditation. Ahead, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about meditation for children, including what the practice looks like, how to teach it, and why it works.
In a way, it's no wonder that children develop anxiety and stress disorders as they grow. We live in a sensory-filled world.
Overview: Meditation for Kids
In a way, it's no wonder that children develop anxiety and stress disorders as they grow. We live in a sensory-filled world. Real threats are present, and the unknown can be scary.
Even though it’s tempting to think you can protect your children from all fear and stress throughout their lives, however, the better response is to teach them how to handle the hard times. This is what children's meditation helps them do.
Building a strong meditation practice at a young age is a good place to start.
“Diagnoses of anxiety- and behaviour-related disorders in children have risen sharply in recent years.”
What Is Meditation?
Whether for kids or adults, meditation is a practice that can bring great joy and comfort to your life. While it can be difficult to completely define in one sentence, we can essentially say that meditation is a mind-body practice that trains your awareness and focus.
There are many benefits to meditation. For example, it can help improve attention span, calm shaky nerves, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote happiness. All of these benefits are available to kids as well as adults.
Are Kids Able to Meditate?
Yes! While a child’s meditation won’t look exactly the same as an adult’s, the basic foundation of the practice remains. Kids, for example, may benefit more from guided imagery. The duration of their sittings might be shorter. And of course, it’s important to cater meditations to the child. Some, for example, won’t do well with sitting meditations longer than a few minutes, but they will do quite well with walking meditations outdoors.
Why Is Meditation Important for Kids?
“Up to 30% of youths will develop anxiety disorders.”
— The American Academy of Pediatrics
Kids are not immune to the stresses of life. In fact, diagnosis of anxiety- and behavior-related disorders in children have risen sharply in recent years2. These include conditions such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This tells us a few things- first, as our understanding of how anxiety and behaviour disorders manifest in children grows, diagnoses rates are increasing as children who may not have previously been identified to have such disorders are diagnosed. In other words, kids today are not necessarily more stressed than kids in the past. However, this also tells us that kids are also more affected by anxiety and stressors than we previously thought. This is why as parents, we need to be vigilant in helping our kids tackle the stressors of life.
Will Meditation Help With Anxiety and Stress in Kids?
Yes. Fortunately, how meditation works is to soothe the symptoms related to problematic disorders. Kids meditations have the same effects as adult meditations. Even short, easy meditation for beginners can have astoundingly positive effects. A recent study from The Journal of Positive Psychology found that just 15 minutes of meditation had similar positive effects to a full day off on vacation.
Types of Meditation for Children
Guided Meditation for Kids: Either a live or recorded meditation instructor recites instructions for the meditation session.
Meditation for Sleep (Sleep Meditation): These meditations are softer and extra soothing. Often featuring a meditation with music, they are made to calm the mind and body for sleep.
Mindfulness Meditation: Meditation and mindfulness simply go together. Mindfulness meditation means being mindful (paying full attention) to the present moment, instead of focusing on the past or future.
The Benefits of Meditation for Kids
With meditation, kids can learn:
1. How to breathe properly.
Many people learn how to breathe improperly (not deeply) when they are kids. Meditation can help teach better breathing habits.
2. How to manage stress and anxiety.
Meditation helps refocus the mind and calm frantic thoughts and jarring, stressful emotions.
3. Better focus.
Mindfulness meditation, especially, can be beneficial in improving focus. That’s because it takes a substantial amount of focus to stay attentive to the present.
4. How to calm down and regulate difficult emotions.
Often, children get keyed up with strong emotions and have no idea how to come down again. Meditation helps center the mind and provides a calming “cushion” for difficult emotions. If your child likes music, consider downloading some meditation for kids music.
5. How to sleep better.
If you’re looking to use meditation for kids sleep, this is an excellent idea. Kids bedtime meditation can help alleviate some of the issues they experience during bedtime. Many children feel too anxious, scared, or energetic to adequately ready themselves for sleep at night. Kids sleep meditation is the perfect remedy.
It’s Easier Than You Think to Teach Kids Guided Meditation
There is no wrong way to teach your child to meditate. But here are some tips:
1. Start small. Even a five or 10 minute meditation is better than no meditation at all.
2. Try family meditation. Meditating as a family can be a wonderful experience for all family members, including kids.
If you have never meditated before, connect with an instructor for a quick starter session.
3. Don’t worry about the details. If someone giggles, moves around or gets distracted, that’s okay. This practice is about showing up first and foremost.
Meditation for Kids: Frequently Asked Questions
What age should you start meditating?
You can start mindfulness meditation or short, informal meditation sessions with your kids at any time. Generally speaking, however, sitting meditations work best with children who are about six or older.
How do you meditate as a family?
Here’s a quick family meditation: Find a quiet place. Seat yourselves on the floor and get into a comfortable, attentive position. Straighten your back, and close your eyes gently. Set a timer for just two to five minutes. Focus on your breath: In … and out … in … and out … in … and out … until the timer runs out.
Does meditation help with school?
Yes. Meditation has been proven to help children focus better and be less distracted. This helps with attention during class and while studying. Meditation can also improve memory.
Can toddlers meditate?
While you probably won’t be able to get your toddler to sit for a full meditation, you can work on some mindfulness focus together. Try focusing on one object (like a ball) for just 30 seconds. Look at it with your child, and describe everything about it (color, shape, size, texture, smell …). This is a great mindfulness meditation for toddlers.