Written by Katlyn Proctor
American children aged under nine years of age spend over two hours a day on screens, according to a report by non profit organization, Common Sense Media. Just a few of the effects of too much screen time include anger and anxiety when devices are taken away, an inability to focus, and a greater risk of depression. Fortunately, there is a powerful way to bring children back into ‘the present moment’; to hone their ability to give themselves fully to the ‘here and now’. Mindfulness is the key ingredient of activities like yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi, and there are many ways to encourage the whole family to take part in them every day.
Making Yoga and Meditation Relatable for Kids
Rather than telling your children that you are trying out yoga and meditation as a way to curb their reliance on technology, simply let them know you will be trying out a fun activity together later in the day. Parents and children can find it hard to find the time they need to bond and enjoy hobbies together but because yoga and meditation can easily be adapted to all activity levels and because they have such powerful benefits, they are a good place to start. For your first class, simply engage in a few basic asanas. Choose asanas that are inspired on the colorful world of animals. You might want to try out the butterfly pose, dog pose, cobra pose, and camel pose. Older kids or those who already love yoga can proceed to more challenging poses such as the swan pose or the king pigeon pose – perfect for stretching out their backs after a long day at school. After these poses, they will already be in mind-body control mode and can be more open to a calming meditation session.
Where to Start with Meditation?
If parents and children are meditating together for the first time, choosing a good soundtrack is a good way to discover the essence of meditation. One popular CD is Enchanted Meditation for Kids by Christiane Kerr. It features eight short meditations that contain gorgeous sounds and music, as well as very calm voice that leads you through relaxation exercises. Once you begin to hone key techniques such as pranayamic breathing and visualizations, you can create your own script and select music that makes you and your children particularly relaxed. Creative children with a gift for writing may enjoy writing a meditation script themselves. Help them record it, using music and sound effects for greater effect. Otherwise, one family member can simply read the script while the others engage in meditation practice.
Working on Controlled Breathing
Controlled (or pranayama) breathing is a key skill that children can utilize in tough times – including stressful encounters at school, exams, etc. Apps like Breathe can be practiced anywhere, so don’t think that your entire family needs to be at home to work on your breathing. Download a breathing app and play it while you are on the way to school or in a traffic jam. A breathing exercise can take as little as five minutes, but it is a powerful stress buster all on its own. Pranayama breathing apps guide the user through inhalations (lasting several seconds) and exhalations (lasting even longer). The key is to control the abdomen to rise as you take in breath and fall as you breathe out. Simply doing so immediately lowers the heart rate and stops the ‘fight or flight’ (anxiety) response from taking hold when your child is stressed.
Meditation is a fun, easy, free activity that can be practiced at home, in the car, or at a nearby park or forest. From engaging in fun asanas while controlling breath, right through to enjoying a five-minute guided meditation session in your backyard, there are many ways to embrace mindfulness alongside your children. The key to encouraging children to embrace meditation is to add the fun factor whenever you can; enthusiasm is catchy so make sure to express this sentiment when inviting children to start this beneficial activity.