The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are becoming widely accepted. From stress reduction, to mood enhancement to productivity, to creativity, to clarity of thought ... the list of benefits is compelling. There are also interesting studies that have been done on the positive impact of meditation on children with ADHD.
But should we teach meditation to kids? As parents (and educators for that matter), who are under pressure to get things right, we must determine whether teaching meditation to kids is merely another item on an already lengthy to-do list or a valuable tool to enhance their lives. We need to examine the science and ensure that we are not succumbing to society's fleeting trends and expectations. Because we all know how in this digital world, phases and crazes come fast, burn bright and then disappear without a trace! I've done the research for you. So, let's have a look at what I found ...
Meditation seems to definitely be a powerful thing. I've even started a little routine myself during my research and have found myself to rather enjoying it. In my experience, mindfulness and meditation present an opportunity for us to find a sense of calm and clarity amidst the chaos. I feel more focused, clearer and refreshed after a meditation. But I've also found that I currently need the help of guided meditations to reach a point that I assume is the meditative state. Calming the mind isn't the easiest thing to do in the noise or speed of our modern world. My conscious, analytical brain is taking some effort to quiet. In my personal experience so far, I feel like I need to learn how to meditate and how to reach the state where the magic happens. It involves the right environment, the time to ensure I'm not interrupted and some help from experienced meditators.
When researching meditation, I discovered that changes occur in the brain which are measured in the form of brainwaves. During meditation brainwave frequency slows, usually beginning with Alpha waves as we experience a calming of our nervous system, then into Theta waves as we begin to feel day dreamy and then possibly into the sharp focus associated with gamma waves if you're a more experienced meditator. Theta waves appears to be the main type of brain wave experienced during meditation, which is what you will recognise as daydreaming or being on autopilot. You know that drive you did where you can't remember a chunk of the journey. Eeek! You were probably daydreaming in theta wave range! There's a lot of information out there about what these stages can do to benefit our health and wellbeing from mood shifts to even releasing chemicals that positively boost our physical health. Pretty magical stuff. Us humans are pretty cool.
So, what about kids and meditation? Well, curiously, children under 7 are in theta brain wave range a lot. Naturally, they are in a creative, imaginative state which means they experience this brain wave range without needing to sit with their legs crossed and eyes closed. As an aside, this frequency range also means the brain is very susceptible to information. Hello childhood conditioning! That's a topic for another post, but I just wanted to refer to it here, because I think that's an important bit of information for parents to have. Moving on. So, as deep meditation requires such focus and stillness, would that be an appropriate expectation for children? Or would their natural ability to engage in creative, imaginative states of play be meditative enough? Perhaps encouraging mindfulness in the form of observing the small details on a leaf, the stillness of a bedtime story, the relaxation of music, the attention to the breath or the creativity of drawing or writing is where our meditation teaching should begin. A progression ladder of mindful, child friendly activities that help teach them the skills they might need should they wish to meditate more deeply at some point. It's this awareness that we have when we are being mindful that we need to utilise when we try to sit and meditate.
As parents, understanding these 3 can help us lose any 'mum guilt' and feel reassured if our children can't sit cross legged with their thumb and forefinger pressed together whilst repeating a mantra yet.
You can see from these points that some children aren't ready for deeper meditative activity and how mindfulness is so important anyway. We can be mindful anytime. We do meditation. But neither necessarily move big emotions from our body on their own. Combine the provision of mindful opportunities with imaginative play and the space for children to express their emotions (in healthy ways) seems to be a solid strategy for children's emotional wellbeing now and in the future. And maybe one day they'll sit and experience the magic that is meditation too.
Hey! I'm the founder, creator and voice of Ink and Scribbles. Sharing thoughts on child well-being and parenting that are based on my teaching and parenting experience, and NLP learning.