Looking for tools to for how to help a child with anxiety? Try mediation. Regular mediation has shown to decrease anxiety, reduce stress, improve sleep and lead to to overall improved physical and mental wellbeing throughout the lifespan. When we teach our kids to mediate, we not only jump start their access to its incredible benefits, but introduce a healthy coping technique for managing anxiety, reducing stress and improving mindset. Although mediation often looks different for kids, a smooth set up and some intention will not only increase their success and enjoyment but give them all the benefits mediation promises. Here are a few tips to help you and your child get the most out of meditation:
Practice During Happy Times
When introducing a new concept, like mediation, choose a time when your child is happy, calm, and most receptive to learning. Don't try a brand new activity when your child is upset. Practice first when they are calm, and then, once they are comfortable, you can use it as a tool during a more challenging time.
Enlist Your Child's Help
Kids are natural choosers. Whenever possible, let your child have autonomy in choosing, creating, and implementing the mindfulness activities you do together. Research shows that a child's desire to make their own choices is so strong that they engage in and enjoy the same activity significantly more when choosing it versus when the decision is made for them.
Pick a Location
No one location is best for your child to meditate. The best place for your child is where they feel most comfortable. Your child should choose their meditation spot. Maybe they get to sit on a special pillow when they meditate. Perhaps you have a calming playlist in the background or use a bell to signal the start of the meditation. Inside or outside locations work, and changing spots is okay too.
Pick a Position
Just like location, there is no best position for your child to be in when they meditate. They can keep their eyes open or closed. They can lie down, sit, or even move around. What is important is that your child feels comfortable and safe. Adults sometimes imagine meditation is about stillness. However, with children, successful meditation may not look the same as it would with adults.
Cater Toward Your Child's Specific Interests
Cater and adapt practices to fit what your child already relates to and loves. You can alter any exercise, meditation, or calm down activity to fit multiple subjects or themes. Creating the practice around what gets your child excited will increase engagement and make the activity more meaningful. If your child does not want to blow on hot chocolate, perhaps they can choose to blow on a hot bowl of soup.
Keep Instructions Simple, Clear, and Concrete
Kids need clear instructions to feel safe and comfortable, so keep explanations short and clear. A good rule of thumb is that the instructions should be simple enough for a verbal child to explain them to a friend, family member, or stuffed animal.
Stay Consistent with Language
Keep your words consistent. Saying to "breathe in big and fill your tummy with air" one day and "breathe in big and fill your belly with air" the following day is confusing to little kids. Are belly and tummy the same thing, or are they different body parts? Pick a single word for each body part or instruction, and stay consistent.
Try Kid-Friendly Guided Mediations
Listening to guided mediations (mediations led by an audio script) are one of the easiest ways to introduce kids to mediation. A library of short, kid-friendly guided mediations is available in the mindful family app, Wondergrade. The library of mediations covers topics like easing worries, building resilience and winding down, perfect for easing child sleep issues, providing kid anxiety relief and helping the whole family build healthy coping tools and find their calm.