Meditation has been used for thousands of years to help relieve stress, anxiety, and the feeling of being out of control or overwhelmed. It also helps improve self-awareness, empathy, and mindfulness.
During a meditation session, you may focus on breathing, noticing sensations in your body, relaxing, visualizing, and engaging your senses. This mind-body practice provides benefits that last far beyond the meditation session.
Nearly every religion (Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, etc.) has a tradition of using meditative practices.
It’s also extremely beneficial for children.
Meditation works as a stress management tool by switching off the fight or flight response to stress and allowing the body to switch on the relaxation response. When children meditate, they become less reactive to stress.Dr. Alina Olteanu
Meditation is one of the most important mindfulness tools you can teach your child. A July 2021 study revealed that elementary school-aged children who practiced mindfulness training slept an average of 74 extra minutes a night.
What is guided meditation?
In guided meditation, rather than practicing in silence, one is led by another person’s voice. For instance, a parent can read a guided meditation script to their child before bedtime. Being guided can help the meditator focus, prevent their mind from wandering and given them an entirely new experience.
You don’t need lots of experience—just focusing on your own out-breath from start to finish is a beginning. Feel the sound, the sensation. Trust your intuition for knowing what’s best for your child, and when you practice mediation together, that connection will grow stronger.Lorraine Murray, author of Calm Kids: Help Children Relax With Mindful Activities
How to lead a guided meditation for your child
If you have not experienced guided meditation yourself, begin by participating in a pre-recorded guided meditation before leading one with your child.
- Choose a script (you’ll find 40+ meditation scripts for kids here). Read it to yourself first so that you can find the rhythm.
- Make sure your child is comfortable both physically and psychologically. Be sure they are not hungry or needing to use the restroom, and are relaxed and calm.
- Choose a time when you have your child’s attention and they are open to a new experience.
- Find a place that is free from distractions or loud noises. Bedtime is a great time to try guided meditation with your child!
- You may choose to use soothing music to accompany your script, or your child may prefer just your voice. Follow their lead.
- Give them a few minutes to settle. For especially active kids or those who need some time to calm their nervous system, ask if they want to move around or wiggle their body to get any pent up energy out.
- Read the script to your child in a calm, soothing voice, pausing often. Notice how your child relaxes and engages.
- When you are finished, allow your child time to reflect and share their thoughts with you.
Children should not be forced to meditate, and if it seems your child isn’t in the right place to meditate at that time, you can move on to another activity and try again later, or on another day.
You may choose to begin with shorter meditation sessions and increase as their ability to focus and meditate grows.
Kids need the adults around them to behave in ways they can model, says Murray. Kids also need to hear and feel that their adults know them well enough to adapt meditation to their needs and preferences, which can change day to day.Lorraine Murray, author of Calm Kids: Help Children Relax With Mindful Activities
The Benefits of Meditating with Your Child
Meditation can improve a child’s positive thinking, happiness, and empathy. It can reduce pain and headaches, making children fall asleep faster, and improve sleep quality. Stress is reduced by lowering cortisol levels, and children are better able to focus. Children use their imaginations during guided meditation and it can help them access their natural creativity both during and after the session.
Bedtime used to be a battle with our 5-year-old daughter. Since we tried the Lazy River meditation, she’s a completely different kid! Instead of getting hyper or negotiating her nightly routine, she’s calm and seems almost happy to go to bed now.Marisol R., parent
Get Started with Your Child
Green Child Magazine’s guided meditation scripts for kids are a great place to begin with your child. Parents praise them for helping calm and center their little ones, and some report that reading a meditation is the best way to get their child to fall asleep at night.
Teachers and therapist often share how these scripts have positively impacted their students and patients.
I am a therapist and needed to help a child suffering, and to do so quickly. I was able to pull up Peaceful Retreat. This precious boy had been suffering with a terrible weight, unable to focus on school, unable to sleep, he stated he was starting to ‘feel crazy’. His distress was big and painful. We used the meditation, and when he opened his eyes, he stretched, looked around, then looked me in the eye and said, ‘I feel so much better.’ His shoulders loosened and his facial muscles relaxed. To be able to pull that up free of charge, right from the web…it saved him and his family from hospitalization.Katherine W., Therapist & Social Worker
Mindful meditation can give children the tools they need to recognize their own signals of stress and bring themselves back into balance. Children are curious and willing to try new things. Meditating with a wiggly pre-schooler may not look exactly as you envision, but your child will benefit, as will you!