Photos by Michelle Phinney
“Come home. Your soul needs you.” -Juan Rendon
I felt that one. I have been feeling that one on an almost daily basis for the last year and as a result began to feel my way through the dark towards the light. As I have worked through that process I have thought more and more about my boys and the journey they are on to becoming themselves. But also to hold onto who they already are.
Growing up is a big job. There are so many little daily crisis to be navigated. Whether you have had supportive parents that you can talk through things with or not, at the end of the day you are still left with yourself. You and your mind. Your thought processes and the way you see the world will shape your reactions to the world and in turn invite that same type or reaction (or energy) back. So those moments when you are left with yourself can change everything.
So what if we start teaching our kids now how to deal with those moments? How to direct their energy to things that will invite goodness and love to come back to them? How to sit with the discomfort of their hurts and uncertainty?
One of my sons is and has always been an especially vibrant and intense personality. God bless him, he has inspired much growth in me. When he was a toddler he would get so upset, as toddlers do, and let me tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it. His hands would ball into fists, his arms locked straight down. His whole face would go red and veins would bulge in his forehead and neck as he opened his mouth to cover my world with his vocal rage. As he continued this posture and volume his whole body would shake. We were in therapy by the time he was 4. The best advice I got from his therapist was the last thing I wanted to do in those moments but it changed how I saw him forever. He said that when my son was in this state there was no discipline or timeout that would to bring him back, that I needed to go to him and wrap him in my arms and say “you have lost control so I’m going to hold you until you calm down”.
That’s when I realized that they don’t do this to us on purpose. They don’t want to be in this moment any more than we do. They are just so overwhelmed with the complexity of what they are feeling and the inability to work through it that they lose it. Sometimes as adults this still happens! Or is that just me?
For my second son it looked very different, he would close up, go inside himself and just completely shut down. But just like my oldest son nothing could reach him until he was ready to come back except for sometimes some love and comfort, then we would try again. I had to acknowledge their frustration and let them know it was ok to be frustrated and that they were safe and loved before they could come out of it ready to try again to make the right choice.
The intense and stubborn personalities of these boys can surely be a gift when their persistence is applied to the right things. Alongside lots of conversations about making the right choices even when you are frustrated, meditation is a powerful tool and even high energy kids or toddlers can be surprisingly good at picking it up. If a child is old enough to sit in timeout then they are old enough to meditate! In fact, when I first began teaching it to them they found so much relief from it that they would ask for it and then they started going to their room alone sometimes to do it.
If a child is old enough to sit in timeout then they are old enough to meditate!
What if we teach our kids to know at the end of the day when they are left with just themselves that they are their home? That that space is safe? To have the tools to be present and not constantly seeking distraction to shut out all the noise in their head that plays nonstop until they feel like they are going to explode or shutdown.
Instead of them working through it in their 30’s or 40's we could set them up ahead of the game. We could give them the tools they really need to be able to navigate where they have been and where they are going. There is a study that shows kids who learned mindful awareness practices were better able to manage themselves after just eight weeks of training twice a week. Twice a week! We can do that!
Whether you already have a meditation practice or not you can give this gift to your child. In fact, if you don’t have a personal meditation practice then what a wonderful adventure it would be to learn together with your child! Keep each other accountable and encourage each other. Find yourself, love yourself, don’t give up. There are so many tools available now to help us learn this valuable practice. I just got a great kids book about it for one of my boys and he loves it. There are also instructional videos on youtube as well as meditation apps! The apps are great because you can choose the type and length of meditation (starting at as little as 3 minutes!).
What are some of the benefits of kids meditation?
Something we could probably all use in this world full of distractions, alerts and busy schedules!
Self confidence can’t grow if you don’t ever spend any time with yourself. How do you know how special, unique and brilliant you are if you won’t sit with yourself? You wouldn’t expect to get to know and love someone if you didn’t spend any one on one time with them would you? Even though you are “always” spending time with yourself, if you fill it all full of distraction and noise then it will be extremely difficult to get to know and learn to trust your voice. Meditation helps kids (and us) find and learn to love that space.
Growing patience and understanding
They become more patient and understanding, listening more readily to others and empathizing with them. Another study looked at the effectiveness of the Mindful Schools program on around 400 low-income, mostly minority elementary-school students. It found that after five weeks of regular mindfulness sessions, teachers reported that students became more focused, participatory, and caring.
Meditation is truly a life skill that can help better our relationships with not only ourselves but with the people around us. What a life changing gift we can give our children, the chance that they won’t have to grow up and “find themselves" because they’ve had that connection all along.