Today I’m delighted to bring you the second instalment of our meditation mini series by Holly Ashby. In this post, Holly discusses some of the key benefits of a regular meditation practice for children and young people.
When thinking about meditation, it’s easy to assume that it’s something only adults would benefit from. To a certain extent, most children are shielded from the stresses and strains of modern life that make it such a useful tool for adults. However, children aren’t completely immune from this stress and have their own unique worries. To help, meditation can be a great relaxation technique for children.
It’s easy to forget that a good portion of childhood is defined by instinctual fears (I’m sure a fear of the dark was very useful when it stopped toddlers wandering out into the void) and that children are pretty fatalistic, with most young kids temporarily lost in a supermarket entirely convinced that they will be stuck there forever. I can still remember the creeping horror an accidental viewing of Nosferatu (a silent horror film) bought to my 5 year old brain, and the thing about these fears is that although they are entirely natural, they can still be stressful.
This stress can become more profound as children get older and start to understand the life they are leading, their responsibilities within it and how little control they have over it. Once kids start entering their teenage years then there is, inevitably, lots of chaotic emotions they have to deal with, combined with increasing pressures on them to achieve a certain appearance and perform well at school. All these things can impact self-esteem and there are very few adolescents who sail through these years with complete serenity.
Of course it’s not all doom and gloom, happiness is as intense as (and hopefully more abundant than) fear in childhood. Also, most people look back on their teenage years fondly because they are so noisily enjoyable, and in hindsight even the melodramatic poetry-scribbling bits in which you are convinced that simply no one has ever felt as bad as you do – seem sort of fun. However, to help with some of the negative aspects, age-appropriate meditation techniques can really help, so much so that schools in San Francisco have introduced meditation programs to their timetables.
The positive impact of this has been evident in these schools with numerous advantages that can be found in encouraging children to meditate.
Firstly, in news that could comfort exhausted parents everywhere, meditation can help children sleep, especially if it’s practiced before bedtime. Sitting quietly can calm down a restless child, and it gives them a moment to breathe, think and imagine. Of course it would be unfair to expect children to meditate as adults do, but there are resources and classes that can guide you in age appropriate techniques.
In San Francisco, where the 11 to 14 year old students have 15 minutes to sit quietly or meditate scheduled into their mornings and afternoons, they have found results such as:
• 50% less suspensions
• 65% reduction in nonattendance
As meditation can make children calmer, more relaxed and more equipped to deal with the challenges that come their way, their behaviour is improved.
Creativity and Productivity
Meditation can also have an impact on academic performance. Studies have shown that children guided in meditation have increased abilities to plan, as well as an improved memory. For the children and teenagers who become very anxious about school work (which is understandable in the high-pressure, exam-based schooling system where so much can hinge on the performance of one day), the unwinding effects of meditation can help them approach their work with a clear head.
Meditation also improves focus and concentration, while firing up the creative parts of the brain and allowing people to perform at their best.
Stress and Self Esteem
Life can be very emotionally overwhelming, especially for teenagers, and while adults can often look back at the extremes of adolescent feelings with some amusement (as anyone who’s discovered an old teenage diary can attest to) they can be really quite traumatic at the time. Also, teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the pressures of modern life, sometimes having to deal with some pretty grown up and scary stuff, and these formative years can dictate how you feel about yourself for decades.
Meditation can go some way to tackle the stress that comes with this, and it can help young people acknowledge and deal with their emotions. By feeling a little more in control, some of the anxieties of youth can be lessened. With meditation reinforcing a sense of self-acceptance and bolstering self-esteem, children and teenagers can find more confidence when they need it most.
Quiet and Calm
The modern world is incredibly busy, and kids are often propelled along from one activity to the next. Meditation gives them the time to let themselves just be, an opportunity to stop and exist in the moment. While they still enjoy art, music and sporting pursuits, they really appreciate the chance to take some time out and find some space in their own minds.
It also gives the older kids some quality time away from all the stimulation and distractions of technology and gadgets, which is vital in an age where your brain is constantly “plugged in”, with some pinging screen always demanding attention.
Fostering meditation as a habit in children can stand them in brilliant stead for the rest of their lives, adding an incredibly positive influence which can make them happier and healthier throughout their journey to and beyond adulthood.
Thanks Holly! ♥