This is a short story about meditation for children and what an effect parents can have.
The other day, I was helping my 10 year old son get ready for bed. He asked if we could meditate a little as we lay in bed together and before we started, he told me that he often meditated when he felt any anxiety or fear—that the exercises I had taught him many years ago came in handy regularly.
I was touched and amazed. What a useful skill he has to help him in his life. And I was so happy he did it on his own, that I didn’t have to push him.
In fact, I have never wanted to push him into meditation—it is such a wonderful and natural part of my own life that I wanted it to be the same for him. To me it is the best gift in the world—the simple road to experiencing peace. And it's free. He can do it anytime, anywhere without needing anything.
But I wanted him to discover that on his own, to learn the importance of it at his own pace and to know that he can shift into meditation for relaxation and enjoyment, or to use as a healthy coping tool when he is upset, or maybe address some deeper concerns he might have one day.
So how did it get to this point where a 10 year old child meditates quite naturally?
It seems to me, the number one reason is...because he sees me do it.
Over the years, when he asked questions about meditation, I gave him answers about why I did it, why it helped me, instead of telling him he should do it or tying it to some kind of reward/punishment system. And maybe he remembered that when he asked me to teach him a few techniques.
In this way, we adults need to lead. Imitation is the key when we think about meditation for children. You’ve probably heard the quote by Gandhi, “be the change you want to see in the world.” This holds true for peacefulness too. If you want to see more peace in your home, consider what 10 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour of meditation would do for your own state of mind.
Now, consider how your state of mind affects those around you—your children, your spouse or partner, or other loved ones. Isn’t it true that when you are at peace, things disturb you less, you are not so ready to quarrel, you don’t escalate as quickly?
It doesn’t mean that you don’t set limits, or don't face conflict when you need to; it doesn't mean you have to stop good parenting choices. But it means the whole thing happens with a little less judgment and harshness, and fewer knee jerk reactions. And out of that emerges a little more love, a little more joy, and even a little more spontaneous fun.
And that has a ripple effect. Meditation for adults becomes meditation for children. When you and your child leave home to go to school or work, you go feeling more at ease, more at peace, more refreshed. That peacefulness now shows up as your child’s ability to be kind to classmates or your ability to be a little more patient and caring at work.
This reminds me of what a young girl told me after learning meditation--it was so wonderful that I wrote it down and asked her and her mom if I could quote her and here it is:
“I wish everyone could do this so the whole world could be at peace and no one would do bad stuff and no one would be fighting and everyone was loved and no one wanted to do bad things.” - E.H.
So what's the first step to that goal? It starts with us adults. Instead of us telling our children they need to slow down, settle down, stop fighting, be less angry and meditate…we need to do it first.
We adults are the first step. I am the first step. You are the first step.