Meditation classes calming young minds

There seems to be a misconception that kids have it easy.

While they might not be worried about work or money, there are plenty of other things that can stress them out - relationships with their friends, bullying, school work and family issues are high up on the list of things children worry about.

Which is where meditation comes in.

It can help kids find a calm place when they feel anxious and help them to become peaceful after spending an afternoon running around the playground.

Lyn-Maree Fredericks started taking her two daughters to a children's meditation class 18 months ago, after they started asking questions about her own meditation practices.

Although her eldest daughter no longer attends the classes, she still meditates regularly at home to overcome stress around school, while her nine-year-old daughter Jessie still loves meditating with her friends every Tuesday afternoon.

"Jessie is in tune with the relaxation side of it. I find the conversations I have with her leaving here are usually very clear, like she can go in concerned with what's happened at school but come out quite bubbly and relaxed," Fredericks says.

"She seems to find clarity with life. It means she is clearer in the things she wants to do."

Jessie says she uses meditation to deal with things she worries about at school and to help calm her mind before she falls asleep.

"I like it because it's fun and very relaxing to do. I like doing the guided meditation the most. Sometimes it's hard to do just on your own."

"I do it at night because it helps me get to sleep and with school and calming down with tests that might be coming up."

Ursula Laughton runs a children's meditation class and says most kids tell her it assists them when they are feeling anxious about something at school.

"There's always pressures, even from age five they've already started school, and there's expectations and responsibilities that they have to experience and deal with everyday, so taking this time out, they get the opportunity to be themselves, reflect on what they need and get to know themselves more," she says.

"I've had comments about children being able to go to school more at ease, relating with their peers with more confidence."

The difference between teaching a child and an adult how to meditate is the level of intellectual engagement they have with the process.

A typical meditation class begins with the children expressing something they are grateful for, followed by some stretches and breathing exercises to calm them down. Laughton then guides her students through some relaxation exercises before taking them into their imagination using visualisation, which lasts between five and 10 minutes depending how old the children are.

Meditation may help children

Teaching children how to meditate can have benefits in the classroom as well. Primary school teacher Julie Pappas had success using meditation techniques with the classes she was teaching while still completing her studies and released a book and CD to teach children how to meditate.

‘‘For me meditation is two things: it’s a process and a state of being. Generally with primary school students, I use visualisation CDs and some breathing techniques,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s a very simple thing, but it can be a very powerful thing because they will start to self-monitor themselves.’’

She says  breathing exercises and visualisations are a great way to help children transition from running around the playground to being back in class and often integrates it into syllabus work for reading, literacy and creative arts.

While Pappas often uses meditation as a behaviour management technique and to create a relaxing classroom environment, she says it can help children deal with a range of problems.

‘‘Children are like sponges. They get stressed about all sorts of things. Bullying is very common, they get stressed about relationships, they have anxiety about parental issues such as separations and divorces. They are human beings, just smaller than us.’’

She uses the same techniques for children from kindergarten to Year 6 and says it is often the younger students who become more taken with meditation because they aren’t afraid of what their friends might think if they lose themselves in the moment.

While they may not fully understand the benefits of meditation, Pappas says the point is to teach children how to be happy within themselves and ways to relax and become calm when they are anxious.

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