Adults don’t have the market cornered on stress. Kids are learning everything for the first time. Much of what’s old hat for us adults is new and scary for them. It can be anxiety producing for them, and for parents watching it happen.
Practicing meditation can help us as parents by making us calmer. Stress is cumulative (if you don’t believe me check out this research about cumulative parental stress). We’ve all had our moments where we’ve been impatient with our child over something that wasn’t their fault…and then felt the guilt that comes with that. Reducing our overall stress can help us deal better with our parental stress (and we all have parental stress).
It also shows our children their parents modeling positive ways of dealing with stress. Whether we like it or not, our children learn the behavior we model, not the behavior we preach. By showing positive coping skills we set them up for a lifetime of coping with stress in a positive way, and that is good parenting!
And when we do it with our children it’s a few moments of togetherness in our otherwise hectic schedules. Meditation with children isn’t going to be an hour-long affair. It isn’t going to be fancy. It can be laying on the floor on a mat staring at the ceiling (eyes open or eyes closed is a matter of preference). It can be outside if you wish (I think it’s more fun). Just as long as you’re both still and you can breathe then you can meditate together.
For children it can be a life saver. Children act out anxiety differently than adults. According to WebMD parents often mistake anxiety and depression in children for moodiness (you can view the article for yourself here.) For instance, emotions such as disappointment or sadness should pass, but a child suffering from anxiety or depression may exhibit that same mood over a much longer period. They may lose interest in activities. Kids may seem irritable or angry rather than sad or anxious. In the case of full-blown depression or anxiety, professional care is needed. To minimize the stress associated with these disorders meditation and mindfulness, especially with a loved one, can make a huge difference.
I personally practice breathing techniques with my son. He’s a very smart, very well-behaved five-year old (currently). He’s also very emotional at times. And he can become overwhelmed to the point that it’s hard for us to discuss why he’s so upset. So we practice a very simple breathing exercise to calm him down and handle the situation.
If he refuses to breathe with me I tell him that when he is ready, mom isn’t far away and I will give him some space until then, and I do.
But meditation is a great preventative, and we’ve used it as that too. Just a couple of deep breaths while we’re waiting in line to drop him off can start his day headed in a good direction. After a long day it can help with the transition between school and home and help them open up to you about their school day stresses. And if you teach them to do this throughout the day it may be enough to prevent an incident that can lead to a phone call home.
And I’m not alone in incorporating meditation into my parenting repertoire. A story of a school teaching meditation rather than punishing kids with the boredom of detention went viral on Upworthy.com. Many yoga studios now offer classes that include kids (I’m hoping to take my little one to our first class together this Sunday!). And the Chopra center offers several articles, including this one on how to get kids to meditate.
So try it. Tell us how it went. Do any of you meditate with your kids? Have you ever attended a yoga class with your little one? Share your experience and help other parents share meditation with their children.