It has been a tough year for the world.  The next generation will vociferously testify to it. The beginning of the pandemic was marked by canceled exams and early announcements of vacations, an auspicious start in the eyes of most of the student population! But as the weeks rolled by, children found themselves holed up indoors, completely isolated from all society – family and friends.

In this scenario, parents have been tempted to give in to their whims and fancies – partly feeling sorry for their plight and partly afraid of the adverse effects of boredom. So, children have been ‘gifted’ unlimited screen time – surfing YouTube hour after hour, downloading computer games at will, and binge-watching series and movies late into the night, in an endless quest to thrill themselves every moment of the day. 

The question to ask is: Were they happy at the end of it all?

Perhaps in spurts, but predominantly they have become restless, irritable, and more demanding, than before lockdown.

What can help calm children down during this pandemic and find their true joyous self? Try some quiet and introspective time – meditation can help kids be happy and grounded – even during the pandemic. 

How to address your child’s thoughts on meditation:

  1. Meditation is for oldies, Mom; I’m still young!

    While our early ideas of meditation have been formed with images of sages chanting in a remote forest, meditation has now been embraced by youth around the world. For instance, it is an integral part of sports exercises today. 

    “At the end of a rigorous training session, my son’s coach makes them stretch with yoga asanas and meditation”, reveals Aditi (name changed), mother of 8-year-old Ishan (name changed). You will hear top sports athletes talk about how meditation helped them calm down during those inevitable nail-biters. Even top-notch musicians spend some time meditating before an important performance.

    Know these 10 myths about meditation which are not true.

  2. It takes too much time

    Guided meditations are only for 20 minutes. If this sounds too long, children can start with 5 minutes. Though they may not admit it, their tired minds need that space and time away from the crowd to rejuvenate itself.

    Some facts about kids and meditation

    • The ones who need it the most (quiet children as well as hyperactive children) are most likely to resist it. 
    • Children are creatures of habit and if you manage to get them to get past the initial hurdle, they will follow it on their own after a while.
    • Many children cannot express what they feel, so don’t be disappointed that they are not feeling what you expected they will. In fact, meditation will make them more expressive and communicative. 
    • As your child grows up, he/she will resist listening to all your well-meaning advice including meditation. Instead of instructing your child, genuinely listen and learn from him/her. You will be surprised by their creative ideas and novel thinking. When they notice your efforts to know them, it will make them feel useful and included, which will help you bond better. And this could be the breakthrough you need to broach meditation.
  3. It is boring

    This is really a comment on your child’s inability to spend time with himself/herself. Children are accustomed to the continuous external stimulus in the form of computer games and the TV. They find their own thoughts non-existent or too dull. This is why meditation sounds boring. Start with short sessions and once it becomes a habit, they will not feel it as much.

    “My son says he feels blank after meditation,” worries Shruti (name changed), mother of a 9-year-old. This is actually one of the first steps of meditation. What Shruti does not understand is that the ‘blankness’ is the mind at rest – relaxation, the first milestone of meditation.

  4. I don’t see any benefits of meditation

    The benefits of mediation for children are manifold. While they are not necessarily instantly visible, there is no doubt that meditation makes a crucial difference in the sort of person your child grows up to be. 

    Children are in the growing stage. Every stage comes with new challenges and experiences. As they reach adolescence, and encounter defining moments of their life, their emotions tend to be close to the surface making them moody, unstable, and basically difficult. Meditation can help de-stress and calm their frayed nerves. It is specifically useful now with the unprecedented situation the world is in with the pandemic.

    Benefits of kids’ meditation sessions post lockdown

    • Composes the mind: Children are worried that they or their parents could contract coronavirus. They also sense the inevitable anxiety as uncertainty has crept into everyone’s mind. Meditation can help keep their fears at bay.
    • Makes children more thoughtful and considerate: Meditation teaches them to think about the underprivileged  sections who cannot afford the luxuries of precautionary steps like washing hands multiple times in a day.
    • Increases self-esteem and confidence: After being away from their usual activities for so many months, meditation can help children adjust to the new normal. 
    • Curbs bad behavior and aggressiveness:  The stress of the current pandemic could drive children to embrace bad habits and practices. Meditation can help steer them towards a cleaner and a safer world.  
    • Increases attention span and memory: With online modes of learning, children are more or less on their own and the need to focus on their studies is more pressing than ever before.
    • Improves interpersonal skills: After being stuck indoors for so many months, it can be difficult for anyone let alone growing children to begin social interactions again. Meditation can help them communicate with their juniors, peers, and seniors without inhibitions.

How to teach meditation to your child

  1. Know your child

    Work with your child’s nature. It is a task that no one will do better because no one knows your child better than you. For instance, you can’t ask your hyperactive eight-year-old to sit in one spot for 20 minutes! You are setting yourself up for failure. 

    If your child likes silence, let the meditation be a silent experience. If he/she is inclined to talk and listen, play Gurudev’s guided mediation and allow children to be soothed by his gentle and calming voice.

    When you customize it for your kids, with meditation music or soft breathing exercises or simply silence, you have a better chance of succeeding in your endeavor to introduce meditation into your child’s life.

  2. Keep the sessions short and sweet

    This is especially true when you want to introduce meditation to your kids for the first time.

    • Start with 5-minute sessions.
    • Don’t lead, judge or instruct too much.
    • Avoid giving them instructions  like, ‘For five minutes, I want you to clear all your thoughts.’ Just let them be.
  3. Start early in the morning 

    Normally, the ideal time to meditate is in the morning when children are fresh and active. This is also when you can catch your child’s attention before the day’s distractions steer them away. In fact, the lockdown has given us more opportunity to spend time with the kids. And even though it is lifted, with restrictions in movement, you have more scope to squeeze in meditation time with the kids.

  4. Give them a list of do’s rather than don’ts

    Instead of admonishing them for fidgeting or continually opening their eyes, ask them to do something. That might be easier for them. For example, you can say, ‘Focus on your breath, take deep breaths in and out, slow down your breathing.’ When you ask them to do it, they are more likely to feel like active participants. You will have won the first battle of engaging them physically and mentally then. 

  5. Be their meditation buddies

    Children have been left to their own devices a lot of late. With present but absent parents (working round the clock in the absence of domestic help), no teachers, friends, hobbies, or classes, they have almost nothing animate to interact with. Some lucky ones have siblings with whom they can spend time. Your added presence will greatly reassure them. 

    Meditate along with them. This could be that thing you do together – the quality together time. Share your experiences. How did you get into meditation? How did it help you? What were your struggles? This will teach them to open up and share their experiences.

  6. Involve your child’s friends

    Children are primarily influenced by their friends. Get all their friends together and organize an online group meditation session. If you create a friendly and warm environment, you will influence more than just your child! Watch Gurudev’s beautiful example that explains how you can influence your child. 

    Meditation is a practice. And like any other practice, the more you do it, the more perfect you will be at it and will be able to reap the benefits early on.

    Make meditation time fun, and relaxing. Don’t make it a chore, or something that the children need to do to please you. Let them not feel any pressure to do the practice. Your patience and presence will comfort them.

    You can begin with guided meditations for kids. In particular, Yoga Nidra by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a deeply relaxing meditation for both children (and adults). Since it is in a lying position, children learn to settle down quickly without fidgeting.

    It would be great if you, as a parent, also learned to relax with some breathing techniques.  

    To learn yoga asanas along with breathing techniques and meditation, your kid(s) could also join the Online Utkarsha Yoga here.

    Written with inputs from Prajkti Deshmukh, Faculty, Art of Living

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