Meditation for Kids

By Lori Lite

Meditation is a difficult concept to teach children. Even an adult embarking on the practice of meditation might find it challenging to achieve a complete state of “no thought.” Being able to relax your mind and body is a precursor to meditation. With much discipline the novice will develop the muscles needed to reach the next stage of meditation.

A child cannot and should not be forced to learn to meditate. The pursuit to learn to meditate is a very personal decision coupled by a strong commitment and desire to do so. So how do children and meditation go together? Children can be exposed to meditation and, most importantly, its prerequisites. Basic techniques of diaphragmatic breathing, muscle relaxation, affirmations or mantras, and visualizing are some of the methods used to prepare oneself for meditation. Most people first learn to replace chaotic thinking patterns with a calming visual or mantra designed to soothe the mind and body.

A more playful, interactive method is a preferred approach. Parents can use relaxation techniques throughout their day. Children see, children do. Blowing bubbles is a stress reducing fun activity enjoyed by all ages. Children love to visualize putting wishes into the bubbles. Meditation can be done with your child sitting next to you or even on your lap. You can even invite a stuffed animal or doll to participate. This is an opportune time to focus on both breathing and visualizing. Using diaphragmatic breathing in this setting is the perfect moment to explore the difference in shallow vs. deep breathing. Let your child know why you are going to meditate. Use words like, “Mommy feels a little stressed so I am going to do my deep breathing. Do you want to breathe with me?” Introducing children to these tools will give them an advantage if and when they want to meditate.

It is never too soon for a child to reap the benefits and techniques of relaxation and meditation. There are reports that state that stress levels during pregnancy can affect an unborn child. I used deep breathing throughout my last pregnancy and I believe that my newborn was easier to soothe when I focused on my breathing because of this. In general, the age of four is when a child can start to participate in relaxation exercises, but I have seen children as young as eighteen months copy breathing and positive statements. Little exposures can begin at any age.

It can take a lifetime for meditators to be able to clear their minds of all thought with the purpose of transcending the mind. It is extremely impractical to impose these expectations on a child. The focus can instead be on helping children to integrate practical tools like visualizing, breathing, and positive statements into their lives. Storytelling is an age-old method of passing along lessons. I created stories that incorporated research-based stress management techniques for my own children to learn to self-soothe.

To implement these tools, show your children how you use relaxation throughout your day. Take deep breaths when you are driving or rushing to get out the door. Try a candlelight dinner or breakfast. See who can hold their gaze on the flame for thirty seconds. Introduce your family to relaxation music or classical music. Create emotional awareness by asking your child how the different styles of music feel. Explain to your children that you are calming yourself down or use positive statements when you are feeling frustrated.

With a little practice, relaxation techniques will become second nature to you and your children. When your children decide it is time to graduate to meditation, they will have already taken their core classes.

Lori Lite, award-winning childhood stress expert and certified children’s meditation facilitator, created stories to alleviate her children’s stress and help them sleep peacefully. Her titles are a resource for parents, educators, school counselors, yoga instructors, and child life specialists. She has been featured on hundreds of media outlets, CBS News, USA Today, and CNN Living.