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Even if you’ve never practiced meditation, chances are you’re familiar with its benefits. Like yoga, it can help fight anxiety, help you sleep better and, according to a study by the Universities of Coventry and Radboud in the U.K., even “reverse” the reactions in our DNA that cause poor health, stress and depression.
When it comes to children, the effects of meditation may be even more profound. Take, for example, an elementary school in Baltimore that replaced detention with a “Mindful Moment Room.” The number of suspensions the school saw in the first year of the program? Zero.
If you have children, however, you may be wondering how on earth one actually gets children to meditate. Kids have more energy than most of us adults and considering how hard it is for us to sit still and quiet our minds, trying to get an 8-year-old to do so seems next to impossible. In reality, however, it’s more possible than you think.
How To Get Your Kids To Meditate
Author and wellness expert Mallika Chopra, daughter of spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, spoke with Simplemost about the importance of teaching meditation to children, and also shared her tips on how to teach your child. The main thing to remember? Keep it simple and fun.
“Remember, some kids have a hard time sitting still so it may be easier to begin with breathing and movement exercises,” she said. “First step, just breathe! Take a deep breath in, pause, and out. Maybe try three breaths.”
One breathing exercise in particular, which Chopra outlines in her new book, “Just Breath,” not only helps kids “cool down,” but also makes them smile. Simply have them curl their tongue like a straw (or keep it flat if they can’t curl their tongue), breathe in like they’re quickly slurping air, close their mouth and breath the air out of their nose.
“I also recommend mindful eating and walking exercises with kids, as those can be approached as short, interactive challenges,” Chopra said. “Maybe begin with a mindful walk where you leave your phone at your desk. Do a gratitude exercise with the kids at dinner time.”
Setting An Example For Your Kids
Before asking your children to meditate, however, Chopra suggests that parents try it themselves for at least five minutes. Don’t stress if you’re irregular about your meditation, however, or if you fidget. As Chopra says, these are just hints that you yourself need meditation more than you realize.
“The primary challenges often are excuses,” says Chopra. “‘I don’t have time, or can’t find a place to meditate.’ … So instead of making a huge commitment, start with simple techniques. Try a two-minute body awareness exercise while you are in the carpool line. Or as you are eating a meal, be more aware of the texture of the food.”
If you’ve tried to meditate and haven’t been successful, don’t fret. Chopra says she has actually been an “irregular meditator” throughout her life and understands we all go through phases. Today, however, she practices sound meditation for about 20 minutes a day, every day.
“I close my eyes and repeat a sound mentally in my head,” she says. “When my attention drifts away from the sound, which it does and is normal, I gently come back to the sound. In this way, my mind starts to settle down, my breathing slows, and the rest I get from my short meditation gives me a boost of energy for the rest of the day.”
If she can’t do 20 minutes, she tries to practice for at least five, but if she misses it, she doesn’t let it stress her out.
“There is no right way to meditate,” she says. “Rather, these techniques can help you feel more in control of your emotions at critical times and help with overall wellbeing. The key is to start with simple techniques, like just taking in that deep breath right now. In, pause, out.”
Have you or your children tried meditation?