The mental and physical benefits of meditation are now widely recognized. Not only for adults, but children too. Catherine Wilde, Kids Yoga & Meditation Teacher states, “Similar to adults, children are inundated with information on a daily basis. Learning meditation from an early age can be extremely beneficial for kids.”
Tiana Woolridge, MPH, MD ‘20, Wellness Consultant, notes that a staggering ‘One in five children experience mental health issues.” Woolridge says, “If we can provide a blanket of support and teach students how to maintain balance and find peace, then there is no limit to what our students can achieve.”
Dr. Bryan Bruno, Founder and Medical Director at Mid City TMS, further explains, “Meditation is one of the healthiest activities that a parent can do with their child. Meditation affects different parts of the brain, including the parietal lobe. Activity in the parietal lobe slows down during meditation, and children are able to process information more clearly.”
So, what is meditation?
Wilde explains, “Meditation is the process of turning inward, calming the mind, and practicing presence.”
While this provides a great basic explanation, meditation can take many forms, hundreds in fact, including guided verse non-guided meditations, and calming verse insight meditations.
That leads us to the next question, why should we encourage children to meditate?
Andrea Gurney, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, states“Kids who practice meditation and mindfulness reap a host of benefits, including but not limited to increased focus, self-control, coping strategies, emotional regulation, and better relationships.
In our fast-paced, multitasking world, it can be incredibly helpful for children to learn to slow down, breathe deeply, clear their minds, and practice mindfulness; arguably, it is becoming more essential for us to teach children how to do this given the rise in children’s anxiety, depression, and stress.”
11 experts dive deeper to explain these benefits, sharing the various reasons we should encourage kids to meditate.
1. Learn Core Emotional Regulation Skills
Kids who learn to meditate are able to learn “core skills” necessary for emotion regulation such as proper breathing, slowing the heart-rate, identifying symptoms of anxiety or sympathetic nervous system arousal, and “centering” themselves in the here and now. Some research suggests that meditation has both neurological and physiological benefits that can help kids on the Autism spectrum and those diagnosed with ADHD.
Some research even points to PTSD. As a child and adolescent therapist specializing in treating trauma, many of my trainings and even my own work makes use of meditation for kids. It’s very important for adults to pause, reflect, and start again. It’s even more important for kids who often get lost in the shuffle of daily life.
~ Tamara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC, Practice Owner, Licensed Therapist, Certified Trauma Therapist, anchoredinknowledge.com
2. Reduce Stress & Anxiety
The practice of meditation can help to reduce stress and anxiety in children.
Teaching children to focus on their breath and other calming techniques can give them the tools to come back to a calm, present state anytime, day or night.
Whenever possible, allowing children screen-free time outdoors is an excellent way to help kids experience the calming beauty of nature. Also, listening to guided meditations for kids is a great way to help children get started on their meditation journey.
Even just a few minutes spent in meditation daily can have amazing benefits for kids.
~ Catherine Wilde, Kids Yoga & Meditation Teacher, Motherhood & Self Care Coach, simplyjoyfuljourney.com
3. Opportunity to Unplug
Kids are people too, which means that they get stressed and overwhelmed just as much as adults do. They may even be more stressed than adults, as kids don’t have the proper language or coping mechanisms to deal with their struggles.
Which is exactly where mediation for kids comes into play. Mediation is an opportunity for a child to unplug and just feel. It gives them coping mechanisms for dealing with stressful situations, and it helps their minds and bodies unite in one calming exercise. Teaching meditation to children can help improve their performance in school, their sleep patterns, and their overall emotion regulation.
~ Adina Mahalli (MCT), Certified Mental Health Consultant and Family Care Specialist, Maple Holistics, website.
4. Changes the Brain
Research has shown that when children practice meditation on a regular basis, it can change the brain. There is neuroplasticity. What this means is that our brains are not as fixed as once thought. Through meditation, brain centers for emotions and executive functioning can be changed and help children in a variety of ways.
It can also help children regulate their emotions, thereby having fewer meltdowns, reduce their impulsivity and improve concentration and focus. Very helpful with children diagnosed with ADHD or ADD.
~ Frank J. Sileo, PhD, Licensed psychologist, author, drfranksileo.com
5. Learn How to Breathe Properly
From a health perspective, deep breathing which is characteristic of many meditation routines is also incredibly helpful. Even for adults, breathing properly is something not many of us know how to do! So kids that learn how to breathe properly will likely carry this sub-conscious habit into their teens and adulthood, which can only be beneficial.
Furthermore, I think that if meditation was introduced at kindergarten and in elementary school, it could help counteract low attention span and anxiety too. This could lead to fewer medication prescriptions such as Ritalin for “trouble kids”, replacing it with the natural and healthy alternative: meditation.
~ Dr. Nikola Djordjevic MD, MedAlertHelp.org
6. Creates Classroom Peace & Calm
When it comes to meditation, as an educator, my advice is to keep it simple. Having routine moments of quiet time in your daily lesson plan really does help students calm down. It reduces the audio clutter going haywire in their heads, especially for students who struggle with attention deficit disorder.
Many of my students need time to refocus. Having five minutes of quiet with the lights off, the shades down, and the salt lamp on really does create a sense of peace and calm in the classroom, which in turn reduces their overall stress level, helps them relax, and encourages them to be respectful.
~ Emily Denbow Morrison, M.Ed., Bucksport High School English Dept. University of Maine, Orono, Grad. Instructor.
7. Build Emotional & Psychological Resilience
Over the life span, mediation has a significant and positive impact, we are seeing that when kids are introduced to meditation, just like learning a foreign language at a young age, the skill remains with them for life. It can easily be deduced that by learning meditation as a child, the child is set in the right direction to understand their thoughts, feelings, and their physical relationship within the body, they come to understand and experience the interconnectedness of all of them. Harnessing this kind of awareness as a child is a preventative tool that will allow the child greater emotional and psychological resilience as they grow into a happy and well-adjusted adulthood.
Put into practice meditation can benefit the whole family and can be practiced together, of course by modeling this healthy behavior, parents can further ensure that their children will pick up healthy coping techniques and wellness methods.
~ Stephanie Wijkstrom MS, LPC, NBCC, Founder and Psychotherapist,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, counselingwellnesspgh.com
8. Increases Focus
Meditation calms our bodies alarm system, which allows an increase in focus on the present moment. Because some meditations may require kids to focus on their breathing or focus on a word or on a sound for a duration of time, this helps to increase attention span to focus on completing things in the moment.
~ Lakiesha Russell, Licensed Mental Health Therapist, LPC of The Evolving Chair, theevolvingchair.com
9. Improves Sleep
Kids who practice meditation can strengthen their immune system, lower stress, and even improve their sleeping.
In fact, the best times to meditate are right when you wake up and right before you go to sleep. Meditating before bed allows for deeper sleep, keeping your child well-rested and prepared for school or other activities.
~ Dr. Bryan Bruno, Founder and Medical Director at Mid City TMS. Mid City TMS is a New York City-based medical clinic focused on treating depression.
10. Boost Physical & Emotional Health
Meditation can be a powerful tool for any parent who is looking to help boost their child’s physical and emotional health.
Firstly, meditation has powerful positive implications on our physical health. People who meditate regularly have more effective immune systems, less frequent headaches, lower blood pressure, fewer aches and pains, and several other physical benefits.
Secondly, meditation has been proven to help with emotional health. Regular meditative practice can lower the rates of anxiety and depression, lengthen attention span, help children to become more self-aware and can also help boost their self-esteem.
~ Kristen Fescoe, Clinical Program Manager, Resility Health
11. Improves Academic Performance
Practiced meditation creates long-term neurological (brain) changes. This means kids, and adults, need regular practice (preferably 5 days a week for at least 15 minutes), rather than just once a week which is unlikely to be effective. Meditation is like any other skill, repetition is needed to build it.
These changes include:
- Kids feel calmer and can control their emotions better
- Kids have an increased emotional capacity to deal with stressful events such as exams or personal problems
- Behaviour is improved
- Lower levels of depression and anxiety
- School attendance improves
- Improved memory
For the above reasons, (which are visible on brain scans of regular meditators) meditation has enormous potential for improving academic performance in schools This YouTube clip explains more:
To summarize, Frank J. Sileo, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist and Author, puts it perfectly ~
“Research continues to grow in this area and more and more is being done. It is really a great way to exercise their minds and a practice that should be cultivated every day not just when a child is stressed or having a difficult time. It is also a fun practice that can be done together within families.
More and more schools are implementing meditation practices into their curriculums to help students and teachers. I call it the best portable app around because you always have your breath with you.
The practice of meditation is a positive, practical, portable and a scientifically proven way of being for kids (and adults!)”