Stress affects children in many of the same ways it affects adults. However, children cannot always express how they feel, identify their emotions or label what is causing their distress. Instead, they might misbehave, use attention-seeking behavior or throw a tantrum. Some might become withdrawn or depressed, and in some cases, they might become violent, destructive or even self-destructive.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress are the first steps in alleviating it. The following meditation guides children in identifying their feelings and learning that they can control their thought patterns, their emotions and their well-being.
Meditation can be practiced anytime, anywhere, but creating a special place makes the practice more inviting. Use meditation cushions, pillows, yoga mats, bells, incense or a favorite stone, shell or picture to create a calming sanctuary.
Meditation is a special time, a quiet time. It is a time to be with your Self and listen to your heart.
Sit up tall. Close your eyes and open your ears. Gently massage and squeeze your ears and ear lobes. Listen.
Listen to the sound of your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose. Breathe in; breathe out. Inhale; exhale. Is your breath long or short? Deep or shallow? Soft or loud? Take a deep, slow, quiet breath. Breathe in; breathe out. Inhale; exhale. You might have many thoughts. Think only of your breathing.
Now, turn your attention to your body. Think only of your body. Does the cushion you’re sitting on feel hard or soft? Are you wearing shoes? Are your laces too tight? Are your feet bare? Do you feel carpet under your toes? What other sensations do you feel in your body? Is your nose itchy? Is your mouth dry or moist? Is your stomach full or empty?
It might be difficult to sit so still; it might be difficult to be so quiet; and these feelings may be uncomfortable. That’s okay. Feel them. (Comfort your child as necessary—these feelings are temporary.)
What else do you feel? Do you feel sad? Do you feel frightened? Do you feel angry or frustrated? Name as many feelings as you can. (You may use picture cards or create a list of stress-related feelings to help your child identify his or hers.)
Do you feel these emotions in your body? Where? Are your fists clenched? Is your jaw clenched? Is there tension in your body? In your neck and shoulders? Do you have a headache? Is your breathing short?
You may replace (child’s stress- related feelings) with good feelings. You may put these good feelings in your body, mind and heart. Name as many good feelings as you can. (Again, picture cards or a list work well.)
Choose your favorite. It might be happy. Imagine that happy feeling is a big ball of sunshine overhead. Imagine its warm glow filling you up as you breathe in. Imagine sunshine in those places where you feel (sadness, anger, fear, etc). Sit and breathe in and out for as long as it takes to feel sunshine throughout your body. Feel sunshine from the tips of your toes to the tip of your nose. Sit and breathe in and out until there’s no room left for negative feelings (or sadness, anger, fear, etc.).
Your child might want to write in his or her journal, write a poem or song or draw a picture.
Darlene D’Arezzo is founder and director of Kids’ Yoga Circle. She leads yoga classes, workshops and retreats for children, families and teachers. KidsYogaCircle.com
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