According to the CDC, ADHD, behavioral issues, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in children. Of these disorders, the number of children diagnosed with anxiety and depression has increased most rapidly. If you’re a parent who suspects their child(ren) may be suffering from one of the abovementioned disorders and is considering therapy, you may have begun to do a little research on your own and come across a word called: mindfulness. (If you would like a quick explanation about mindfulness, please read my previous blog post titled: Three Skills to Teach Your Child To Build Mindfulness) Mindfulness, though it can be built and practiced in a multitude of ways, is most commonly practiced via meditation.
For children who suffer from anxiety, in particular, meditations can be particularly helpful. By meditating, children learn skills of attention, self-awareness, and self-management. These skills help children to focus on their emotions and to express them in a controlled and healthy way–in other words; they develop more of a proactive approach to being rather than a reactive one. Research and studies have supported the notion that practicing mindfulness in the form of meditation, even just twice a week, for a minimum of eight weeks can result in increased executive brain function and can help your child become more connected with themselves.
The best way to help your child learn how to master the benefits of meditation is to make an appointment with a child therapist–ask them about mindfulness-based techniques (I personally love talking about these) and see if they could be a helpful addition to your child’s treatment plan! If, additionally, you would like to help your child practice some of these techniques at home then you can try some of the following meditation techniques:
1) Deep Breathing — It is important for your child to first learn how to breathe if they’re going to learn how to meditate. If you’d like to brush up on some good deep breathing exercises and learn about the benefits of deep breathing please read Crissy Himelstein’s previous blog post titled: Benefits of Deep Breathing for Children.
2) Animal Yoga — Once your kids have learned deep breathing, you can incorporate that skill into a variety of other meditation techniques including yoga. To make it more “kid friendly” you can invite your child to do a series of animal yoga poses while practicing their deep breathing skills. Because there are so many good animal yoga poses, I would invite parents interested in this technique to look up “animal yoga poses” online and print out some options to let your child choose from! You can even do it with them!
3) Guided Relaxation Practices — These are meditation scripts you can either read or play aloud for your child during their meditation time. For this, I encourage parents to set aside a specific time of day (before bedtime usually works) for their children to complete on guided meditation. The best part about this technique is there are so many options available to you! For example, you can look up and print out guided relaxation practices and read them in your own voice to your child, you can find and play guided relaxation practices online, or you can download guided relaxation practices apps right to your phone! Simply complete the guided relaxation practice with your child (it is good to look these up and listen before hand to see if it is something that will appeal to your child’s interests) while encouraging them to breathe deeply.
In addition to the abovementioned strategies, you can also find a variety of online resources including YouTube videos to help teach your child meditation strategies. You can even teach your child meditation by utilizing a variety of apps–it’s really simple and offers a multitude of unique approaches to teaching your child meditation strategies in a convenient and fun way! I’ve included a link with some apps to get you started below:
If you have questions about incorporating meditation as a part of your child’s mental health routine, please call our office–we would love to speak with you! If you have tried any of the abovementioned techniques or have found one that you are particularly fond of and has worked well for you and your family, please feel free to include it in the comments below!