I recently had the pleasure of hanging out with a very sweet group of ladies the other night. They are all in different stages of raising children and had some really great advice to share with each other.
One of the ladies had raised two amazing young women and didn’t have any complaints. Another woman had raised three children and was helping to raise her grandson. Still another lady had a blended family with sons and daughters and was dealing with sending one child to college and still raising the youngest boy – who was only three! Then there was another woman who had children in middle school, all girls. Then there was me, a mom of three young boys and the youngest woman in the room.
A very funny thing happened…I told them that I often engage my children in quiet meditation moments. I admitted that, although trying to get little boys to sit still and focus on their breath offers some of the most comical scenes you’ll ever witness, it is a very healthy experience and children benefit tremendously from it.
By the looks of the audience I must have sprouted a horn and turned purple.
It used to be that meditation and quiet time were valuable assets in society. By anyone’s best guess, meditation has been around for several thousand years! So, why is it such a crazy idea? Well, I found an article in Mindful magazine that made me feel more human and less purple, horned-beast. Here’s the link.
See, I have boys. Boys are wired differently than girls. They have different hormones, they mature more slowly, they are more aggressive and take greater risks, they are held to sexist stigmas that say they must be non-emotional and tough. All those ingredients mixed together can create a tough cookie… But we know that expressing emotions is so much better than bottling them up…
Well, I want to give my kids a place where they can go to unplug from the hormone surges and to disconnect from the social pressures of being a boy.
Meditation – stillness – gives them that outlet.
It isn’t easy to get three boys to sit around and then ask them to “allow your awareness to settle into your body.” My kiddos are still young and that kind of existential stuff just doesn’t compute for them. So here’s what we do:
We focus on the feelings of our breath.
Your children’s senses are developing and remain an area of curiosity for several years. As children refine their motor movements, they take pride in discovering their body “in space.” My boys still love to show me how far they can jump or how fast they can run.
Sensation, feeling the way the body moves about and experiences the environment around them, is a tangible way for kids to connect with their bodies.
Breathing happens all the time, right?
So, when we help our kids connect to their breathing, we give them the gift of awareness. Soon they’ll be telling you, “Daddy! I’m breathing so hard because I just rode my bike as fast as I could up the hill!” Or they’ll notice how calm their breathing is when they sit and read. Or maybe they’ll notice that breathing isn’t that great when you drive behind a manure truck!
That is the perfect opportunity to get them to connect to that breath and learn how to slow it down…even if it is just so they don’t have to smell the cow pooh!
We feel our heart beat.
Sometimes I have my kids sit in a circle with me and place their hands on their hearts. We first feel our heart beat with our right palm. Then, we feel it with our left palm. Then we try our finger tips. Then our thumbs. Then we search around our bodies to see where else we can feel our heart beat.
The heart beat can be a very comforting place to draw a child’s attention to.
When your child was still in your womb, your heart was near them, beating a constant, calming lullaby for them. As infants, kangaroo care, or holding your infant skin to skin on your chest, brings them closer to that heart beat and helps to soothe them. Helping your kids find that peace again, in their own heart beat, can help them learn to relax in times of stress.
Offer them this practice when they feel particularly stressed about an upcoming test, competition, or ball game.
We play ball.
Meditation doesn’t have to be all about stillness. What is important is concentration and focus. I’m sure the phrase, “Keep your eye on the ball,” is familiar to most people. As a young child, learning how to catch a ball is a very rewarding experience and offers hours of joy and entertainment. It’s quite a milestone! Once they’ve learned how to coordinate their bodies enough to catch the ball, playing ball can be a great way to help your children learn to focus their attention.
When we play at the park, there are lots of people around, lots of sounds and sights…lots of tactile experiences. So when we play ball we challenge the boys to keep a close eye on it. I’ll often draw letters with the ball before I toss it and ask them to tell me what I wrote. It’s a fun game and they learn that paying attention has rewards…like catching a ball and getting a high five! Or catching the ball and getting mom and dad to chase them around the playground like crazy people!
There are some pretty great ideas floating around online, so do a Google search and see what you can find that might work well for your family.
Let me know how it goes by leaving me a message below or mention me on Twitter (@stepitupcoach) and share your first mommy-and-me or family meditation time!
Also, check out my Pinterest board for more mindfulness and meditation inspiration.