“True education means providing an optimal environment in which each child’s self-regulated learning process can unfold naturally. After all, the very word ‘education’ comes to us from the Latin educare, ‘to lead out from within’, the highest qualities of each unique soul. In this process, meditation proves to be the most efficient and practical means.” — Swami Satyananda
Childhood and adolescence are important developmental stages that will construct the groundwork for mental health in the adult developmental stage. In recent literature, mindfulness-based school programs have demonstrated a range of social, cognitive, and emotional benefits for elementary and middle-school students.
For instance, in the study of Flook et al., (2010) conducted on 3rd graders, students who went through an 8-week mindfulness program showed improvements in behavioral regulation, metacognition and focus compared to the controls group who did not have the mindfulness program.
In another study, students who had a 24-week of mindfulness training scored higher in attentional measures in their elementary school. Additionally, a study on preschoolers emphasized that children who went through a mindfulness curriculum for 12 weeks earned higher marks on academic performance measures. They also showed greater improvements in areas that predict future success.
Mindfulness practice may facilitate the ability to manage stress, and also lead to deeper well-being in students. According to one study by Schonert-Reichl and his colleagues (2010), mindfulness practice leads to higher scores on self-report measures of optimism and positive emotions in elementary school students. Moreover, in a study conducted by Wall (2005), self-reported findings showed preteens feeling calmer, with an enhanced experience of well-being — and improved sleep — after a 5-week modified mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
Following steps can help to involve children in mindfulness activities;
- Noticing the breath: this involves simply paying attention to what breathing actually feels like.
- Five-finger starfish meditation: this breathing technique has kids holding up one hand in a starfish position (fingers spread wide) while they gently trace up and down each finger with the other hand, focusing on regular breathing at the same time.
- Counting the breath: this technique is what it sounds like: have your children pause and count their breaths. One breath in is “1”, the next breath out is “2,” etc. You can have them count to 10 if they’re very young, or slightly higher depending on their abilities.
- Lead them in a guided meditation. Use the app for this meditation session.
- Practice what you preach. As we mentioned earlier, it is so important to actually “do as you say”. Guide your kids every step of the way, but make sure you are taking those steps yourself as well. It will make everyone’s practice richer.
Kids can be difficult sometimes to teach mindfulness. The lack of physical gaiety in the activity might make them disinterested. The main reason for that is the lack of motivation and understanding of the thing they are being taught. Sometimes you might need to incentivize them or include some fun activities in the process. Following tips should be considered while
- Make sure they are ready to give mindfulness a try; if they are full of energy and itching to run and play, it may not be the best time for practicing mindfulness for the first time.
- Explain what mindfulness is and what it is not; give examples of what seems similar to mindfulness but is not (i.e., introspection or chasing thoughts down the “rabbit hole” versus listening to our bodies).
- Say it in an age-appropriate way, with words they will understand.
- Offer to practice mindfulness with them; sometimes having a model makes all the difference.
- Assure them that it’s okay to get off track, and how to gently guide themselves back to mindfulness when they realize they lost focus.
- Finish the practice by doing something they enjoy with them to ensure they have a positive experience.
We want children to be healthy and happy, not just now but for the rest of their lives. And teaching them about meditation early would help them do just that. Include the children in your daily meditation session or get meditation classes incorporated in your school’s curriculum for children.