We hear a lot about upstart children who disrupt class by acting out inappropriately. Many of these kids are bored by academics and full of youthful energy. What if there were a way to get them to simmer down and focus up?
The good news is that there is – and it’s as affordable as it is simple. One well-known key that unlocks inner stillness and peace-of-mind is the ancient eastern practice of meditation. Regular mental exercise such as concentrating on your breathing or repeating a mantra phrase can help young and old alike attain a heightened level of self-awareness.
Sitting on the floor with legs crossed or in a comfortable chair with good back support is something almost anyone can do.
There are all kinds of health benefits linked to meditation, including:
- Stress reduction, anxiety control, improved emotional health
- Increased self-awareness, transforms you into a kinder, gentler person
- Longer attention span
- Improves sleep
- Controls pain
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps overcome addictive behaviors
If you’ve never meditated before, check out this how-to article I wrote a while back for complete instructions.
Meditation is being embraced by schools as a substitute for detention after Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland, demonstrated how grounding it is to start the day with 15 minutes of inward-looking.
A company called Holistic Life Foundation partnered with the school to bring in trainers for the kids. Students who push, name-call or act out aggressively go to the Mindful Moment Room and are paired with a Mindfulness Instructor. As I covered recently for The Conservative Mom, the one-on-one meditation session provides an alternative way to deal with “problem” pupils:
“After five minutes of targeted discussion with active listening, the two practice 15 minutes of self-awareness. The goal is to defuse the student and de-escalate their emotions.”
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – even the babysitter – who spend time with youngsters can share the peaceful satisfaction of focusing on the visionary “third eye,” a lotus flower slowly unfolding, or nothing at all. Chanting a mantra is completely optional – but most kids love following the leader and adore repetition.
Left to their own devices, a lot of children quickly begin to fidget. The solution is a guided meditation that blends an easy breathing exercise with a simple visualization while sitting or standing:
- Relax your body. Begin to inhale and exhale through the nose slowly and deeply.
- Start to take a slow, deep breath to fill your belly up with air, as if you’re trying to blow up a big balloon. Expand your belly as much as you can.
- Slowly let the air out of the balloon (through the nose) as you release the breath from the belly.
- Encourage your kids to feel their entire body relax each time they exhale, each time air is slowly being released from the balloon. You can even make a hissing sound to encourage them to slow down the exhale even more, like letting the air out of the balloon.
- Continue for several minutes.
- After a few deep breaths, ask the child to think of her or his favorite color and imagine a giant balloon of that color in their mind.
- Tell the child to inhale through the nose slowly and deeply, filling up their tum-tums with air as if trying to blow up a giant [insert favorite color here] balloon.
- Optionally, tell the child to stretch her or his arms wide open and reach up overhead to represent the expanding big [favorite color] balloon.
- The balloon is totally full when the child can’t inhale any more air. After the child holds her or his complete breath, “pop the balloon” with a playful finger gesture to the belly. If standing, the tyke can fall down giggling on the exhalation.
Another awesome guided meditation uses a progressive muscle relaxation technique developed in the 1920s by Dr. Edmund Jacobson. Once learned, people can lead themselves through simple steps:
- Sit down or lie down comfortably and close your eyes. Use pillows or blankets to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
- Take a few deep, cleansing breaths and begin to relax.
- Focus all of your attention on your right foot and notice how it feels. Squeeze the right foot, making a “fist” with your entire right foot and all five toes; tense and squeeze it tightly. Hold this tension for two deep breaths.
- Then, suddenly release all tension in the right foot. Relax it completely and notice how the tension release feels. Your foot may tingle.
- Take a deep breath, and then move on:
- Focus your attention on your left foot and follow the same instructions as for the right foot.
- Move slowly up and around the body, squeezing one body part at a time to create tension, immediately followed by the contrasting sensation of release and ease. Follow each part with a deep, cleansing breath as you progress from your feet to your head:
- Right foot, left foot
- Right ankle and calf, left ankle and calf
- Right knee, left knee
- Right thigh, left thigh
- All feet and legs
- Abdomen (belly)
- Entire lower body, from stomach down
- Chest and heart
- Right arm, left arm
- Right hand, left hand
- Whole-body at once (do this twice)
As a rule, never push your child – or yourself – into meditating. The process of calming the “monkey mind” is so pleasant that most people really like it after they get used to it.
Remember, where kids are concerned, “Monkey see, monkey do.” ‘Nuff said.