Kids and Meditation
A piece on Upworthy.com last September featured a Baltimore school that’s replaced the dreaded sit-in-your-seat-and-suffer-in-silence detention with a much more progressive and effective form: one where kids learn to meditate. What this school is doing is teaching kids to focus on the present moment and breathing. Instead of punishing kids who already are having trouble on focusing on the tasks at hand, this is helping them learn those focus skills in a passive and open way, while at the same time teaching them how to calm down and let go of anger.
Side note: When I was a kid, detention was very much like Bart Simpson writing the same phrase over and over again on the chalkboard (how was that a thing?). Now that I am a mother, with a child at the age where he is entering school full time, I am having all of the feelings about him being able to hold his own and keep his cool when we are not there to coach him through it. We have started listening to Headspace for kids with him at night, and he loves it. It really helps him relax and let go of whatever happened that day. His mind is more at ease for bedtime. It's been wonderful.
Obviously, there is a lot of research out there about the benefits of meditation for grownups. Since the Upworthy piece came out last year, I’ve finally started to see this trend start to take off for kids. Benefits of this practice are piling up, and confirming that mindfulness and meditation can offer developing minds a lot — which is amazing! But what I personally think is one of the most valuable benefits is self-awareness, which leads to self-regulation.
“...it [meditation] teaches kids to connect to themselves. When they aren’t empathic, when they aren’t kind to others, or their communities, it’s usually because they’re not connected to themselves.” — Ali Smith, Co-Founder of Holistic Life Foundation
Another study found that a mindful yoga treatment helped kids improve their ability to self-regulate over the longer-term (the one year study period).
“Kids that are really impulsive can learn to develop that pause between stimulus and reaction. Then you have the skills to realize when you’re angry, when you feel stress arising. And you have the skills to de-escalate yourself.” — Ali Smith
If mindfulness and self-awareness are best friends (they are like peanut butter and jelly), then this notion extends naturally to self-regulation, right? So if kids are being taught to be more aware of their thought processes and reactions to conflict in the present moment, it might help them stay away from what landed them in detention in the first place. These kids, who are just at the beginning of their journey, and are stumbling through how to manage their own internal stuff, can benefit in a huge way from some instruction on how to do this. And if I’m being completely honest, I really wish that I had some sort of program like this as a kid for myself.