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This past year had been quite the doozy. We are coming up on a year of Coronavirus shutdowns and as we well know, that has really taken its toll oon us all. Just before shutdown I had taken a Mini-Me Yoga®️ facilitator class, to be able to run my own Mini-Me Yoga program for kids. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to do my first class, because the world stopped. However, it did give me the tools to have “classes” with my own children that are a bit more structured, and really offer a chance for them to learn more about the basics of yoga movements, the power and energy of thoughts and words, and my favorite topic ever; meditation.
The meditation especially, has been so helpful while navigating this challenging time with children.
One of the biggest things that I have always tried to focus on with my kids as far as meditation, is not clearing their mind, but breathing. They are 4 & 6, so they don’t quite understand the concept of silencing your thoughts or clearing your mind. However, they do understand taking deep breaths and I can direct them to listen to the air as they breathe in and out.
Through this past year of upheaval, kids (including mine) are understandably having a hard time dealing with some BIG emotions. I, an adult, have been having a hard time dealing with my big emotions. So I totally get it. As one of the two main adults in my children’s lives, it is my job to help them try to navigate, safely feel, and eventually soothe and move past big, uncomfortable emotions. And so, my children live in a never-ending chorus of “it’s ok, breathe. Breathe.” and “inhale… exhale… listen to your breath”. Often accompanied by, “it’s ok to feel..[negative emotion]… so long as we don’t stop and live there” or “I understand feeling [mad, sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, etc..] but what are some good things about this situation that we can also feel?”.
Meditation is such a great way of helping us through big emotions. It gives us a chance to calm down and really understand why we might be feeling a way. It allows us to understand how and why we react in the ways that we do. Once we understand why we feel a certain way, we can move past it. Whether by changing something, fixing something, addressing something, or even just accepting whatever it is that’s creating that big feeling inside of us and letting it go.
However, for kids, they need help walking through that process. If you have ever tried to walk a child through the process of why they are feeling a way and how they can move past it- while they are in “full feeling” mode- you understand why it’s so important for them to breathe and bring themselves back to center first. That’s why Daniel Tiger talks about counting to four when you feel like you are going to roar. It’s not about not feeling angry, but giving yourself the space and ability to feel angry while still being able to think clearly. This is especially important when learning how to compromise and settle arguments with others. (Such as a sibling you’ve been home with for months.)
The more they practice breathing and feeling what their center is while they are not in the middle of those big feelings, the easier it is for them to return there when they are. So for kids, “meditation” is more about slowing down and becoming present in the moment. It’s learning where their center is- not just when they are angry or upset, but when they are happy and excited also.
Ideas for helping kids find their center
Children are not often capable yet of sitting for five minutes without focusing on something outside of themselves. Five minutes is a long time for kids and there is so much for them to want to learn and explore. So try things like;
- Focusing on hearing their slow breaths in and out for 60 seconds.
- coloring or drawing quietly with meditative music for 5 minutes,
- choosing 2 or 3 easy kid-friendly yoga poses to move through together. Ask them to describe how each one makes their body feel.
- Prompting them to stand still with eyes closed and listen to the water in the shower for 30 seconds, asking them to feel the water on their skin for 30 seconds,
- building a tower with Legos or Mega Blocks
- blowing bubbles for two minutes, slowly, to see how big they can make each bubble before it pops.
- Lay down on a blanket in the sun, close your eyes, ask them to feel the sun on their skin for 15 seconds, “describe how it feels”
- have them listen outside with their eyes closed for 30 seconds, then ask them to describe what they hear
- call them into the kitchen while you are baking, have them sit (somewhere safe), close their eyes, and smell for 15 seconds. Ask them to describe what they smell.
These are moments in which they can bring their focus to one thing, while slowing down their movements. Highlighting one or two senses for them to think about and describe helps them stay calm and focused- it keeps them from feeling “bored” in the slower moment. As they slow down and zero in on what they are hearing, smelling, and feeling, you will notice they automatically calm and slow down their breathing. Allowing them to feel their centered place.
This is a great book with meditation activities for kids. These are fun once they are ready to “step-up” into longer meditation games and they become better at quietly imagining things:
Have these tips helped you find moments to direct your children towards mindfulness? Have you seen any changes in your children’s reactions to difficult situations following small moments of mindfulness? Share your experiences in the comments!
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