In her book, Sensational Meditation for Children, author Sarah Wood Vallely maintains that a meditative practice can help children cope with their emotions, particularly strong feelings such anger, sadness or anxiety. This in turn will lead to improved relationships with family members and enhanced self-esteem.
Vallely offers advice as well as five tools to teach parents and children how to meditate. Called “The Fantastic Five,” the techniques are based on the five senses.
The first tool is called the "Grounding Cord." Sit and imagine a cord attached to your spine and extending down to center of the earth. Visualize the "cord" tethering you to a life with more simplicity and less drama.
The second tool is called "Notice Instead of Become Thoughts and Emotions." Vallely urges the practitioner to breathe deeply and take notice of emotions and thoughts one at a time.
The third tool is "Sensational Focus." The advice here is to slow down and become more mindful of the present.
The fourth tool is "Experiencing a Child’s World." Try to see the world from a child’s viewpoint in order to gain a better understanding of their motivations and inspirations.
The fifth tool is called "Looking into the Mirror." Vallely contends that children mirror the adults in their lives, and parents should meditate on the type of behavior being reflected, and why.
She believes that practicing the core meditative techniques in the book may boost energy, improve sleep, and help parents gain a better understanding of their relationship with their children.
When beginning a meditation session with children, Vallely, herself a mother of two young children, works to put the students in her classes at ease. I called her up to ask her more about her book.
"Kids can be timid. It’s about using their interests to win them over. It helps to talk to kids first and get a sense of what moves them," she said.
The session starts with a song and some dancing, and always ends with an art project. During the practice the children will sit, or more often lay, in a comfortable position, close their eyes ["younger kids put their hands over their eyes, which is fine"], and then they’re quiet, and alone with their thoughts or a visualization exercise.
According to Vallely, through meditation children learn to let go of anger, improve their ability to focus, and sharpen new skills, academic or athletic. Meditation can even be taught to children as young as 5 years old. For children under age 5, she suggests parents meditate in front of them, so when these children are older, a meditative practice will be a familiar activity.
Her ultimate goal is to "empower children so they can feel power." Based in North Carolina, Vallely offers workshops across the U.S. and internationally through telecourses. For more information visit her web site, www.sarahwood.com.
I've been considering taking up meditation as a way to de-stress. My biggest concern was how would I get a little time away from my kids, especially my two-year-old, to practice. Now I think I'll simply practice in front of him and see what comes of it. He already insists on using my spare yoga mat, whenever he sees me doing yoga.