Children today are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of media. The average American child consumes a little more than two hours of screen time every. single. day. My kids get screen time, too. I am practical in my idealism and am not a purist about this issue.
In the “old days” TV ads were the family nemesis, transforming children into effective sales reps who used unfair tactics, especially the dramatic super-human-whine, to convince their parents. The parents’ best defense was to turn off the boob tube. Alas, this is no longer a viable strategy.
Now, media is everywhere: in our purse, our pocket, and our car headrest. 98 percent of American households with children under eight years old have access to a mobile smart device, regardless of income, according to Common Sense Media.
If we as parents are addicted, how can our children stand a chance against the lure of the hypnotic blue glow and the endless variety of engrossing entertainment?
In an age when media is so pervasive and the numbers of children with depression and ADD/ADHT are skyrocketing, it is essential to provide the antidote to the insanity: meditation.
Meditation is the antidote to screen time for many reasons. When we meditate, we use different neural pathways in the brain, which provides a completely different experience. We are able to concentrate, turn off our five senses and discover the more subtle and formative experiences found within. The inner world is a treasure trove of intuition, happiness, peace, and so much more. Unfortunately, it is drowned out by the over stimulation of this culture and time.
It is important to introduce meditation with sensitivity and non-attachment to the results. If you want to encourage your children to meditate, the worst thing we can do as parents is impose it on them. The best way to get your child curious about meditation is to lead by example — then their interest will awaken naturally and you can share with them joyfully.
There are many meditation techniques suitable for children (and we have other spiritual resources here). Here are a few of my favorites:
Help your child light a candle and set it in front of her (or him!—I just had to pick a pronoun). Invite her to sit up straight with legs crossed (we call it “criss-cross applesauce” at home). Ask her to watch the candle flame with eyes open for at least a few seconds or as long as she can sit calmly. Then, invite her to close her eyes and tell you if she can still see the candle behind her closed eyes. Listen closely to what she describes. Repeat the exercise, opening eyes and watching the candle quietly and then closing the eyes and describing what she sees with eyes closed.
You can adapt this for older kids by asking them to get as still as they can and notice the movement of the flame. If you are in a still room and she is within three feet of the flame, it’s likely she will notice it waver when she exhales. Little by little, she will learn to control her breath and not disturb the flame.
Nature Sounds Meditation
This is a great practice to do outside in nature. I learned it from the world renowned nature educator Joseph Cornell, founder of Sharing Nature Worldwide and author of the classic book, Sharing Nature. If you’re stuck at home, try it with an open window and see what happens.
To begin, invite your child to sit comfortably and be still. Ask her to close her eyes and raise one hand in a fist. Then instruct her to listen closely to the sounds around her. As she hears a sound, ask her to extend one finger for each sound. When she has extended all five fingers, ask her to open her eyes and report what she heard.
Snow Globe Meditation
This one is great fun and there is a lovely children’s book to go along with it called Moody Cow Meditates. For this practice, you will need a snow globe or a covered glass jar filled with water and glitter.
Begin by ensuring that you and your child are seated upright and comfortably. Explain that the snow or glitter is like your thoughts. When they’re all stirred up, you can’t see through the clear water. When the snow or glitter settles, much like your thoughts, you can easily see from one side of the water to the other.
Now, shake the jar until the glitter or snow is agitated and set the jar down in front of your child at eye level. For young children, invite them to count with you, out loud, the number of seconds until the glitter settles. With older children, you can invite them to count how many breaths it takes for the water to clear.
Want to Learn More?
Join me and my husband for a live Q&A online this Wednesday, October 24 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. PST about spiritual parenting with Online with Ananda.