Let’s face it: today’s world is not the easiest place to raise a child. Ringing cell-phones, blinking screens, honking traffic… We are constantly assailed by a constant barrage of stimuli, and in the end it’s our brain that ends up paying a steep price. People are losing the capacity to concentrate at an alarming rate. The millennial generation is often called the ADHD generation, and with good reason: they’ve been born in a world that prioritizes productivity and careerism over developing a sense of the self and your place in the world. The consequences can be catastrophic: lack of focus and creativity, decreased memory, and, ultimately, depression.
Fortunately, there’s a way to fight the tide: meditation. There’ plenty of research on the beneficial effects of meditation. Individuals who practice mindfulness are consistently more happy and successful than the non-meditating folks out there. And, once you know how to do it, you don’t need anything to practice it.
But, if you’ve ever tried to meditate, you know it’s really difficult to start. That’s why you want to teach your children while they’re still young. Children are sponges. According to science, young brains make much more new neural connections every second than older brains. That’s why it’s crucial to teach children as many positive practices as possible while their brains are still malleable.
You might think that you are not a mindfulness expert, and you have no business teaching children to meditate. Think again. Meditation is more than a skill – it permeates daily life. That’s why it’s better taught at home, by parents.
But how to start? Here are five tips to help you out:
1) Meditate yourself
Kids learn by imitation. If you don’t practice mindfulness yourself, why should your child trust you when you tell him it’s good for him? Rather than explaining meditation, let children experience the boon of meditation by seeing your example. They will naturally grow curious and ask about it. In the end, practicing meditation will become something natural for them, like eating or taking a shower, rather than an arbitrary imposition they might resent.
Also, practicing meditation together with your children can be a bonding experience. Eventually, your children will associate the experience of meditating with spending some relaxing time with their parents.
Additionally, as you meditate with your children, you’ll paradoxically start learning from them. There are many concepts and practices that, because of the way your brain has been wired, you probably find hard or confusing. Children, however, don’t have this handicap. They will naturally pick up things that you won’t, leading the way for you from time to time.
2) Focus on breathing
Meditation was born as a spiritual and religious practice in the Far East. It’s terminology derives from ancient concepts of Indian spirituality, and there’s an extraordinarily complex mythological apparatus that explains the practice in relation to Hindu cosmology. For this reason, skeptics often turn their noses at the hocus-pocus-sounding language, and beginners are discouraged by the hefty theoretical background to the practice.
However, at its heart, there’s nothing particularly religious about meditation. In the end, it’s about you and your mind. It’s simple, and you should keep it so, especially when you’re trying to teach your children.
So forget about mantras, chakras, lotus-flowers and all the other dogmas of the practice. Focus on breathing instead. Breathing is relatable, and, more importantly, it’s always with you. Once you build your peace of mind around your breathing, it’ll stay around you as long as you breathe.
Teach your children to notice and focus on their breathing. Put their hands on their tummy or chest, and tell them to focus on the way it raises and falls with your breath. If they master this, you’ll have successfully laid the foundations of a solid mindfulness education.
3. Don’t be strict
In a way, meditation is about discipline, but if you are even a little bit strict you will be shooting yourself in the foot. Meditation is all about relaxation, and if you get frustrated with your children, you will create a stressful environment and end up hurting your children more than you’ll be helping them.
If your children are rejecting some aspects of the way you prefer to practice mindfulness, let them get away with it. Maybe they prefer to lie down rather than sit. Maybe they don’t want to close your eyes. In the end, all of this is unimportant. Make sure you create a comfortable environment first, and then you can start working on the specifics.
4. Be part of the community
Like with every practice, meditation thrives with socialization. Don’t just practice it on your own. Be an active member of the mindfulness community, and let your children be part of it too. Follow meditation sites such as Mindful and Mind Body Green Join local societies and groups.
Remember, meditation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s about being connected with the outer world. Never lose sight of this.
5. Get help
If you have older children or you’re having trouble with your lessons, you might want to consider getting some outside help. You can get a private instructor, but meditation teachers can be notoriously expensive. You might just want to give your classes better structure. Get a textbook, or hire an expert to write lessons from you. You can get lessons written cheaply from one of the many essay-writing sites on the Internet. Use a review site such as Revieweal to choose the right one for you.
Otherwise, talk with other parents who practice meditation. Exchange experiences. Remember, it’s all about learning, both for you and your children.
Find some mindfulness exercises for kids, teens, and groups at OneMindDharma.com/mindfulness-exercises.
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