Being a yoga teacher of adults and kids, you might think my own kids are super zen emotionally harmonious little folk. Sorry, just let me compose myself and recover from the ridiculousness of even writing that sentence. If you believed such fallacy… well I’m guessing you probably don’t have kids, bless your unwitting soul. Emotional control takes literally a life time to learn and even as adults, many of us regularly don’t manage it. As a yoga teacher and mother I am highly in favour of empowering kids with skills to master their emotions. Accordingly, life has provided me with the ideal candidate and ultimate challenge, my oldest son L Star, possibly the most high energy child you will meet this side of having ADHD. I doubt you could meet a child less inclined to sit still and pause for even 5 seconds. He is sweet, intelligent, often thoughtful and kind and also in the midst of learning how to deal with emotional meltdowns and impulsive behaviour, which he and we, find hard to regulate.
It has been a long and often seemingly futile road to try and get him interested in meditation but deep in my heart I am dedicated to helping him get there because this is a skill which will be of huge benefit to him his whole life. My husband and I also sometimes struggle to manage stress well and this is one thing I do not want him to inherit, but I know the solution. And it’s the same solution I prescribe for myself to feel more in control of my emotions: meditate. Or from a child’s point of view, understanding how to calm down from the inside.
So now you’re thinking I have the perfect calm meditating child and well, nope! But I do have one who asks me if we can go and meditate now, which is AMAZING!!! Here’s a brief rundown of the methods that helped us make some good progress, hopefully they can help you too.
Ultimately for us it boiled down to this: practice what you preach.
When I started meditation practice with L Star I bought a wonderful book by Relax Kids called Aladdin’s Magic Carpet. It’s a book of visualisations based on popular children stories. I thought it was brilliant and started reading them after bedtime stories, but L Star was not very impressed and in hindsight it was too intangible for his first experience of meditation. There I was reading to him and there he was listening and watching me, but he didn’t want to close his eyes and fidgeting/climbing far outweighed peaceful listening and we both ended up feeling frustrated. I realise now he probably wasn’t sure how this was different from a story or what exactly he was supposed to be doing when I said ‘Imagine you are…’. Even imagining a specific thing takes mental discipline and 4 year olds aren’t really known for that, or for being able to lie still. They have their own wild imaginations but they are just that, wild. Jumping around pretending to BE a monkey yes, lying down with closed eyes and imagining being a monkey… not so much.
So I decided it would help if he could imitate me, so we started to meditate together. We found these videos by Cosmic Kids on You Tube and started with this one, Candle of Concentration.
He loved it. It was tangible, a bit funny and clearly explained what we were supposed to be doing. Plus it was on You Tube so had a bit of cool factor. He loved having this time with me where we both sat in our special meditating pose together, cross legged on the floor and willingly listened and closed his eyes when he saw me listening and closing my eyes too. After watching the video we tried with a real candle, again something tangible for him to focus on. As we looked at it I talked quietly about noticing the different colours in the candle flame, how it moved sometimes. Then I challenged him to look at it without blinking for as long as possible whilst I did the same. He did it, he focused. We closed our eyes and I asked him to see the candle with his eyes closed. He told me he could see it in the desert, then in the jungle! I asked him to make it bigger and smaller which at first he found hard but has gotten better at with practice.
Now I’ve made a routine that in the middle of the day when his little brother is asleep, we have our meditating time. I look forward to it just as much as he does, some peaceful time together. We watch a Cosmic Kids Zen Den video, then practice our candle meditation or watch our Calm Jars – pictured below, shake them and watch the glitter settle as you let your mind settle, always a hit in my kids yoga classes. (See the Meditation Resources page for how to make one)
To finish we chant an OM before he gets to blow the candle out. It’s short, it’s sweet and it’s doable.
We’ve been practicing using the breath to become calm for a while, especially using the Breathe, Think, Do method via the fantastic Sesame Street app, but we hadn’t had great success with that method, until we started with the videos and candle meditation. Somehow that has linked it all together for him. Now I feel we have a few options in our tool box that are starting to make sense for him. The road is long and his resistance to implementing these skills when in the throws of a meltdown remains, but I feel we’re definitely making progress.
If you’re interested in further resources we have used check out the Kids Meditation Resources page.