Kids on Meditation
I am not one to force yoga or meditation on my girls, though I have been known to dangle a carrot at times to entice them to practice. Last week, though, no carrot was needed. My daughter, Sophia, had the day off from school and asked me, “What yoga class are you teaching today?”. I said, “Ashtanga, why?”. “I’d like to come to class today Mommy.” My eyes lit up, though I tried not to look too excited. I needed to play it slightly cool for my almost nine year old. She came to class, moved and breathed quietly with a roomful of adults. I was happy. We continued on with our day as usual.
This week came around and we are getting back into our routine and I asked my girls if they wanted to meditate for a few minutes with me. Often the answer is a simple no, other times there is an interest and this was the case on Sunday. I sat with both girls for a few minutes asking them to imagine a balloon at the center of their heart; with every inhale, their heart expanding with warmth and kindness, and every exhale, an opportunity to let go of any anger or frustration. They liked the image of a balloon and sat quite still for meditation. We ended by taking a few moments to be thankful for the things or people that make us laugh or feel happy.
Monday came around, and to my surprise, Sophia suggested “Momma, I have an idea, how about we practice meditation every day for a few minutes and at the end of the week, we get a reward.” “Great idea Sophia.” Again the giddiness ensues and this time I am not shy about it. My girls picked their reward and made a commitment to meditate just a few minutes every day. On a side note, my girls picked Vitamin Water as their reward. Go figure. Who knew Vitamin Water was all the rage in elementary school?
This morning as I took the girls to school, Sonia, my seven year old, said to me “Momma, when I meditated yesterday afternoon, I got an itch, but I didn’t itch it.” I am immediately thinking how awesome this is; for her to experience something physically, but to consciously choose not to react to it and instead to sit with the experience. She continues, “The itch finally went away, until another itch came and again I didn’t itch it.” Yes, I am totally loving this. Unbeknownst to her, there she was practicing patience and non-reactivity. I asked her what she might have learned through the experience, “I am learning how to not scratch an itch”. I love it. She may not know it yet, but that itch is a metaphor for all the things that will come up in life seeking her reaction and attention. Maybe, just maybe, she will have the capacity to not immediately react; perhaps she will learn to take her time, to pause and to skillfully take action more often than not.
I am curious to see whether we make it through the end of the week practicing every day, but either way, I am happy to have gotten to day two. I was asked a while back to write a post on how to get kids to meditate. I don’t pretend to have any magical answers. I am moving through this whole parenting journey with as much trial and error as any other parent. I think the most significant way I can influence my girls is by how I live my life. So yes, my girls see that I practice meditation almost every day, that I study and share these practices every opportunity I get. They know it is a huge and really positive part of my life. At times, they express disinterest, other times a curiosity. When the curiosity arises, I run with it. When disinterest arises, I allow it. And yes, maybe once every few months, I ask them to join me because it’s something I would love to share with them. Rewarding them with a little treat usually does the trick.
All this said, there are many great books on making the practice of yoga, mindfulness and meditation accessible and playful for your kids. The playful and light part is as important for kids, as it is for adults. I’ll list a few books for you here. Happy meditating.
Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel
Planting Seeds, Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindful Movements by Thich Nhat Hanh
Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Maclean
Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Maclean
Ziji, The Puppy Who Learned to Meditate by Rinpoche Yongey Mingyur