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I Tried Meditating Daily With My 4-Year-Old Kid For A Month—Here’s What Happened

We decided to try meditating as a family for a full four weeks: an experiment in quieting the mind of a four-year-old kid.

The results were squirmy and enlightening.


By Kiley Bates-Brennan, Rodale's Organic Life

[post_ads]As parents, we are pulled in many directions. Not just by our children, our work, and the responsibilities of domestic life. But also by the negative internal chatter that accompanies us constantly. You know that persistent voice–whether you are a parent or not. It asks you who you think you are, tells you you’re not good enough, tells you that you just can’t do things right. And as parents, if we're not careful, this voice can transfer into our parenting. 

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But as parents, we are living models for our children, and giving credence to these self-doubts only teaches them to validate to their own negative self-talk. Meditation has helped me learn to recognize that voice and give it a name: Ego. Knowing that voice for what it is helps me return to the steady center of who I really am. I want to teach my son to do the same. 

Meditation helps me connect to what I have to offer as a parent. In quiet stillness, I can identify the voice of the Ego that tells me I’m doing it all wrong, and I can dismiss it for the illusion that it is. In that release, I can settle into someplace peaceful, sure, accepting, and loving. And it’s this way of being that I want to pass on to my son. 

I recently learned about a school that replaced detention with meditation, and it piqued my interest. Why had I thought of meditation for adults only? How else was my son going to have the peace, confidence, acceptance and love that a mindfulness practice can sew into him, unless he begins as a child? Science supports this leaning. Studies that show mindfulness benefits students in test-taking situations, and a Harvard study that shows how mindfulness practice can actually change the physical make-up of the brain for the better. 
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So, rather than keeping my meditation practice to myself, I invited my son to join my husband and I. We decided to try meditating as a family for a full four weeks: an experiment in quieting the mind of a four-year-old kid. What we learned about meditating with our son left us with big Buddha smiles on our faces.


Week One: Squirmy worm 
We prepped our son for the new morning routine on the night before we began. We’d already put some new rules and rituals in place through a self-imposed digital detox, which included twenty minutes of morning yoga for kids. We decided to segue from the yoga practice straight into meditation. We went with three minutes of meditation to start, which felt age-appropriate. We began with a body scan, this one from Mindful, followed by one minute of silence. 

[post_ads]One the first day of this practice, my son was a squirmy worm. I could hear him flopping around the yoga mat during the body scan, and during our moment of silence, he poked his little fingers in my eyes. When I abruptly opened them, he was one inch from my nose with a Jack Nicholson smile on his face. Clearly, he did not like it when Mommy had her eyes closed, and not on him. 

But we persisted. I thought that once the novelty wore off, my son might settle in and begin to explore his own practice. Nope! The rest of the week brought more of the same: flipping and flopping, eye poking, and a few moments of interruption with questions like, “Mommy, did you know that scat is another word for POOP?!”


Week Two: Fighting the boredom 
We decided to roll with the antics. As the Buddhists say, don’t try to swim against the current. Instead, we relaxed and let ourselves flow down the stream of our four-year-old’s short-attention span. Part of mindfulness is acceptance, and we decided to accept the fidgety quirks of a child’s introduction to a stillness that had nothing to do with sleep. I also believe it’s valuable for your child to see you demonstrate behaviors that you want them to adopt, so we stayed steadfast in our meditation, responding to his questions with a gentle shush. But after a few days, it got old and my son got bored. It wasn’t working. 

One morning during week two, my son woke up and asked, “Can we not do meditation today? It takes soooo long.” I didn’t want meditation to become a chore, so I knew I had to reset and try something new.


Week Three: Calling in reinforcements 
By the time the sun rose on the first day of week three, I was armed with a folder of guided meditations for children, and some new tips and techniques.  I found great options for kids over six years old on OMG I Can Meditate, and we found guided meditations on Annaka Harris’s website, as well as her children’s book, and an awesome set of Mindful Game Activity Cards that we really enjoyed. 
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For kids five to twelve who need support with anxiety, improving concentration, and managing big emotions, Sitting Still Like a Frog offers a CD with mindfulness exercises for kids and their parents. 
Renowned Buddhist monk and author, Thich Nhat Hanh has been penning meditation guides and mindful musings for years. A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles is a book of simple and effective exercises that serve as a gateway to mindfulness for children. My son loved the drawing meditation and connection to nature. 

We spent morning meditation time during week three trying these meditations and more. It was a fun exploration that sometimes felt great, and other times silly or boring.


Week Four: Cuddle meditation
At the start of week four, my son finished his yoga practice and I sat on the mat across from him like I’d been doing for the weeks before. After a moment, he climbed into my lap and asked, “Can we do cuddle meditation?”

[post_ads]Of course, “cuddle meditation” didn’t exactly exist. Not until my son created it. I wrapped my arms around him and my husband scooted up in front of us with a hand on our son’s back. I asked them to close their eyes and take a deep breath with me. I let go of all my assessments about what worked and what didn’t work, and of all the ways I wanted to help my son to connect to his sense of Self. I let my mind pick the moments from our previous weeks that called to me, and I created our own guided meditation.

We spent a few short minutes in our tailored experience–one that borrowed from each of our positive experiences, and had us floating into the deep of an ocean, noticing the underwater sounds, feeling the cool water, and allowing awe in as we mentally watched a mama whale and her baby swim by. I let my son contribute to the meditation, adding his own sensations and guiding voice. And then I asked my son for one minute of silence. When we opened our eyes, each family member shared three things that they were grateful for that day. 

Although we’ll explore different methods and exercises, we still return to our “cuddle meditation.” And we still share three things we’re grateful for. Inevitably my son says he’s gratef
ul for Mama and Daddy. And often, he’s grateful for “cuddle meditation.” As am I.
        



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Lifestyle Magazine: I Tried Meditating Daily With My 4-Year-Old Kid For A Month—Here’s What Happened
I Tried Meditating Daily With My 4-Year-Old Kid For A Month—Here’s What Happened
We decided to try meditating as a family for a full four weeks: an experiment in quieting the mind of a four-year-old kid.
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