• Robb G. Best

Mini Meditators: Mindfulness for Kids

When it comes to adults, the benefits of meditation are no mystery. As the Mayo Clinic notes, meditating has a whole host of upsides, from lowered stress to increased self-awareness to reduced negative emotions to a spark of extra creativity and intelligence. Even the United States Marines—not a community known for their love of New Age-y practices—have begun using meditation training to help boost decisiveness and clear-headedness in times of conflict.

But while you make an effort to incorporate more guided relaxation techniques into your daily routine, don’t forget about the children in your life, writes Alice G Walton in Forbes. Whether a kid needs some help calming down before things reach tantrum territory, or strategies for not getting so stressed about homework and tests, studies are increasingly showing that meditation can be an important aid at any age.

While we still have less overall data about the benefits of meditation on the developing brain, David Gelles of The New York Times argues that it is precisely this state of flux that causes meditation to have such an outsized effect on the young and growing:

“While our brains are constantly developing throughout our lives, connections in the prefrontal circuits are created at their fastest rate during childhood. Mindfulness, which promotes skills that are controlled in the prefrontal cortex, like focus and cognitive control, can therefore have a particular impact on the development of skills including self-regulation, judgment and patience during childhood.”

And for those concerned about raising kind and compassionate children, Walton cites a study which found that, when combined with a social-emotional learning program, mindfulness made a greater positive difference in peer-to-peer behavior than a standard “social responsibility” program. The mindfully trained kids demonstrated more empathy, better perspective-taking, and improved emotional control. They also showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than the control group.

What’s better than a free strategy for bringing up a generation of kinder, wiser, and more self-controlled human beings? What about parents and children learning meditation techniques together?

Raising children is an inherently stressful activity, famously testing one’s willpower, judgement, and resourcefulness. Now a study by researchers at the University of Washington has found that parents who meditate effectively expand their parenting toolkit, tapping into new reserves of consistency and supportiveness. The children, in turn, demonstrate improved social skills.

So if you haven’t tried meditation in your life yet, give it a try. And if you know of a child who could stand to take a few deep breaths and think some calm thoughts, give it a recommendation. After all, as has often (okay, never) been said, if it’s good enough for a Marine, it’s good enough for a kindergartener.

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