How Meditation Helps Kids: Starting Early, Big Benefits
During a recent radio call-in show on meditation, a number of callers commented that they had started meditating as teenagers. After 30, 40, or even 50 years of regular meditation practice, all believed meditation had had a profound positive effect on their lives.
The callers did not elaborate on how mediation had made their lives better, but parents, teachers, and youngsters themselves are discovering many benefits in age-appropriate meditation techniques that foster growth and development—techniques children will be able to use throughout their lives.
How Children Benefit from Meditation
At its most basic, meditation gives young children the feeling of being quiet and still. It gives them time to breathe and imagine, and lets them know that it is okay to have feelings. In fact, through meditation children learn that it is okay to be whoever they are and feel whatever they feel.
After UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center introduced a meditation program to preschoolers, researchers found that mindfulness increased the children’s memory as well as their ability to plan and organize
It’s a myth that childhood is a carefree time. The fact is that children experience many fears: fear of the dark, fear of monsters, fear of abandonment, fear of the future, fear of not being good enough, etc. etc. By training young people to focus on one thought, sound, or breath at a time, meditation teaches them how to stay in the moment, where they are safe. Meditation can carry children away from whatever makes them afraid to a place where they have power and control over their lives.
Meditation helps teenagers deal with the turmoil of adolescence by helping them balance conflicting emotions and manage stress. Meditation strengthens self-acceptance, builds confidence, and enhances the feeling of empowerment. Teens report that they are better able to deal with peer pressure–a powerful force for adolescents–as a result of their meditation practice.
In addition, meditation helps children:
Fall asleep, especially when practiced before bedtime;
Deal with grief and other difficult emotions;
Release negative thoughts and behaviors; and
Get along better with others.
Meditation and Performance in School
Meditation techniques designed for children help them focus so they can better concentrate on their studies. Martial arts, yoga, and other techniques that involve mindful movement are particularly effective at helping students relax and concentrate. Not surprisingly, meditation has been shown to improve students’ performance in academics and sports.
Spiritual Benefits for Children
On a more subtle level, children learn patience, kindness, acceptance, and generosity from meditation. Meditation strengthens children’s relationship with their inner selves, their mind/body connection, and development of their own personality—all of which make them better able to lead more positive lives and make positive choices for themselves.
The Gift of Meditation
Many people who come to meditation in their adult years wonder what their lives might have been like if they had started their meditation practice when they were younger. They speculate that they might have:
Avoided substance abuse;
Made better career and marital choices;
Outgrown their anger and resentment earlier;
Been less depressed;
Made more of a contribution to the world;
Worried less about what other people think; and
Been generally happier.
Even though it is impossible to know how meditation will affect an individual life, there are plenty of reasons for exposing children to this life-affirming practice. It’s a gift parents and teachers can give their children. In addition to the many benefits of meditation noted above, as one young meditator put it, “It’s fun!”