Last school year, my son surprised me by saying that his teacher was teaching the whole class how to meditate — and even more than that, he liked it, and thought meditation was super-cool.
I already had tons of respect for his third-grade teacher. She was a well of patience, and motivated my son to do his best. And now she was teaching my son one of the most important lessons out there: how to quiet the mind and practice self-care.
Apparently, it’s a bit of a trend to teach meditation in school, and lots of teachers are seeing the benefits of it. It teaches kids to regulate their emotions, focus more, and clear their minds. My son said it was a welcome break in his day. He liked how the classroom got really still, and he said his teacher’s voice was soothing. To put it simply: It made him happy.
At 9 years old, he is as sassy and eye-rolling as they get, so I thought it was totally rad that he thought something like meditation was where it was at.
I forgot about my son’s bout with meditation until the middle of this past summer, when he began having trouble sleeping. Ever since he was a baby, my son has had one of those minds that is always buzzing with thoughts. This is a good thing, for the most part. He’s really smart, engaged, and excited about stuff. But it’s hard for him to settle down sometimes — especially at night. He has trouble getting to sleep, or he’ll wake up early and feel unable to fall back asleep.
So I took a leap of faith and mentioned the idea of us meditating a little before bed to see if that would make a difference. I was certain that meditation would only be cool if it came from his beloved teacher, but by some miracle, he jumped right on board.
I think it helped that I told him we could download some apps to my phone to try (kid’s a sucker for technology). When I mentioned that I had some relaxing essential oils we could use, he was game for that too. I think, to him, it felt like we were setting things up for a special event. He liked the fanfare and the attention.
So there we were, lying on the floor of his little room, the lights dimmed, both of us slathered in essential oil, listening to a children’s mediation app I’d downloaded to my phone. It was about 10 minutes in length, and my son lay there still for the whole thing. I seriously couldn’t believe it.
The mediation itself was fine, but seemed to be a bit on the babyish side, I thought. It was this long story about a ball that’s floating above your belly, and you’re supposed to watch it. And then you’re sitting on a bench on the beach, and then you’re in a meadow. You get the picture. Lots of visualization and storytelling. The narrator herself was a little too uppity and cheerful for a meditation session, at least in my eyes.
But when we were done, my son seemed genuinely more relaxed. I asked what he thought of it. He told me he liked the part about the ball the best. His ball was orange and had his name printed in red on it. (How freaking adorable is that?)
Since then, he asks to mediate almost every night. Sometimes his little brother joins us. He’s a little too young to stay still for that long — and I think he’s only in it for the essential oil, to be honest. But he stays still enough and seems to be enjoying it too.
Sometimes I’ll be lying there in the dark with both of my boys, and I’ll have this feeling of stillness and wholeness I don’t always get to feel when we’re in the hustle and bustle of our days. It’s like our whole family gets to take a collective retreat together, at least for a few minutes a day. It feels meaningful and necessary, a kind of quiet release I didn’t even think was possible with kids at my feet.
My son’s been sleeping better too, for the most part, which is totally awesome.
So if you’ve ever thought meditation with kids was something you might like to try, I say just go for it. There are a ton of apps you can get for your phone, although it might take a little trial and error to find ones you like (we have moved on from the uppity-voiced lady, thankfully). There are books on the subject too, and you can even just narrate the meditation session yourself.
Here are some other tips you might find helpful:
1. Pick a time of day to meditate.
Make it part of your routine so there are no surprises.
2. Give your child a collaborative role.
Let your child choose which meditations to do, the length, and definitely don’t push the matter if your child doesn’t want to do it sometimes.
3. Create ambiance.
Dim the lights (not too dark if your child is afraid of the dark!). Give your child a comfy pillow to sit or lie down on. Use candles (carefully, obviously) or scents that your child likes. Keep the mood quiet and inviting.
4. Don’t expect your child to “get it” right away.
There might be some stirring. It’s hard for a little kid to sit still at first. Don’t criticize it too much, but keep going. Your child will probably adjust and be able to sit still for longer periods of time each day.
5. Make it fun.
If your child is really young, you can turn meditation into a game where you practice quietness and loudness, discussing the differences between the two. You can also do slow and fast breathing and movement with little kids, teaching them that they have some control over how their bodies work. Younger kids often need a lot of visualization during meditation, so choose meditation programs that are catered to their ages and needs.
If you think your kids might resist the idea of meditation, or claim it’s only for grown-ups or that it’s “uncool,” just pick a day and dive right in. You may just be totally surprised by how groovy they think it is once they try it.