How meditation can help kids’ minds
Meditation is a skill worth packing into your child’s toolkit for life. Here’s how to get started.
Better sleep quality, improved concentration and mental health, and greater ability to manage emotions – these are just some of the benefits of meditation for children, according to Australian researchers.
Deakin University looked at the impacts of mindfulness meditation on children from primary to high school age.
They found that children who took part in a five-week program developed by Smiling Mind enjoyed benefits inside and outside the classroom.
The researchers and meditation practitioners agree mindfulness meditation helps children be aware of the present moment and their feelings, thoughts and surroundings.
It improves focus and concentration and helps children better manage their emotions and reactions.
Negative thoughts and situations can be kept in perspective and this in turn helps children feel more positive, engaged and connected to their friends, family and communities.
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Becoming their own friend
“A key benefit of meditation for children is the process of befriending themselves and of feeling comfortable in their own skin,” Meditation Association of Australia and mindfulness educator Janet Etty-Leal says.
“It helps children become more aware of their mind and what it is up to.
“It helps them recognise unhelpful habits and manage the many distractions that surround children today.
“Children learn to recognise when their mind is wandering and they can make choices about where to effectively focus their attention.”
Smiling Mind’s programs are targeted at children aged three years and above, which the organisation says can be an ideal time to introduce little ones to meditation.
“Encouraging your kids to practise meditation from an early age will provide them with foundational tools that will continue to support positive mental health habits for the rest of their lives,” Smiling Mind psychologist Michael Hines says.
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How you can help your child meditate
Show, don’t tell
“Leading by example is a great way to introduce meditation to your children,” Michael says.
“By regularly meditating and inviting your children to participate you model positive, proactive mental health habits that your children can mirror.”
Create time to practise mindfulness together
“If your child knows that you meditate after breakfast and before you get in the car to go to school, it will become a task they tick off then as part of the daily routine,” Michael says.
Create a dedicated meditation area at home
Establish a cosy space as a meditation zone where your child can sit and relax.
Fit mindfulness into the every day
Help preschoolers meditate by connecting them to the present moment.
“Meditation doesn’t have to be done sitting still,” she says.
“Go outside and play with leaves and help children focus on the sounds, colours and texture of those leaves.
“At dinnertime, encourage children to notice the different foods on their plate and the different aromas of food.
“Make the most of moments wherever you are. Create small openings for reflection through the day.”
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Meditation apps for children
This free app includes hundreds of exercises for different ages and helps children learn how to regulate emotions, reduce anxiety and increase emotional awareness.
The Families Program includes meditations for meal times, after school, bedtime and weekends.
Meditations run for one to nine minutes and are based on five themes – calm, focus, kindness, sleep and wake up.
Suitable for children aged five to 12. There is an annual fee.
This is for preschoolers and features a Sesame Street monster whom children help to calm down and solve challenges.
It build skills such as problem solving, self-control, planning and persistence.
Written by Sarah Marinos.