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About Children's Meditation
Though meditation has been around for centuries, it is an increasingly popular method of relaxation and stress relief that is appropriate for children and adults. Meditation involves focusing on the present moment through deep breathing, muscle relaxation, visualization or chanting. Guided meditation, the method most appropriate for children, involves a teacher leading the meditator through these steps.
What is children's meditation?
Children's meditation is simply a practice of mental focus and relaxation, modified to be more appropriate for the attention span and stress level of children. Children's meditation is usually guided, especially when the children are young or have never meditated before. Guided meditation involves a teacher leading kids (or adults) in relaxation through deeper breathing and visualization of calming places or events. More mature guided meditation can involve visualizing healing light that relieves physical pain, or visualization of forgiving past wrongs, which may be more appropriate for teenagers.
How old do children have to be to meditate?
Children of any age can meditate, as long as the technique is modified to suit the age group. Susan Kramer, author of Meditation for All Kids, gives examples of guided meditation for very young children that liken it to going on an adventure. In her meditations for children, Kramer has the kids visualize playing on the beach or walking in a field of flowers on a warm day. You can modify the visualizations to whatever is most relaxing for the child at that age, including napping with a stuffed animal or coloring in the sun. Teenagers can use the more traditional visualizations.
Benefits of meditation
According to molecular biologist, researcher and professor Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, a regular meditation practice transfers brain activity from the right frontal cortex to the left frontal cortex. The right frontal cortex is the seat of anxiety, stress and activity. Transferring brain activity to the left frontal cortex relieves stress, lessens anxiety and promotes calm.
For children, this translates to greater concentration in school, less hyperactivity and a greater ability to control emotions. Eve Conant, a Newsweek correspondent, recently reported that inner city schools are increasingly using meditation in the classroom on a daily basis, and have seen increased attention spans, less bullying and less violence.
Meditation as a replacement for punishment
Parents can take advantage of meditation as a replacement for the traditional time-out, especially with children prone to temper tantrums or who have little control over their emotions. Instead of the boredom and frustration that can arise from being sent to a corner with nothing to do, parents can send children to a calming area of the home and guide them in a rejuvenating meditation. The deep breathing and relaxation of meditation will soothe the tantrum, and you can even guide them in visualizations of appropriate behavior or positive play.
More traditional meditation
Children can also participate in more traditional forms of meditation that involve chanting instead of visualization (or paired with visualization). Chanting involves a higher level of concentration, so it may be most appropriate for older kids used to meditating, or for teenagers. Chanting involves the repetition of a mantra, or phrase, in order to focus the mind on the present moment. Kids can chant the traditional “ohm,” which is a deep sound vibration. They can also chant scriptures from your family's spiritual tradition, or self-affirming phrases.