The Gift of Meditation for Kids by Mallika Chopra
At nine years old, I was given the gift of silence from my parents. Learning how to meditate, at such a young age, gave me the experiential, inner knowingness that I was whole, strong and special. Being silent actually gave me joy, creativity, connection and gratitude.
My family’s meditation journey began with my father, Deepak Chopra.
As an immigrant doctor, my father worked 24/7 to give our family the basic needs and security of growing up in a suburb of Boston. While he saw material success, by his mid-30’s my father was exhausted, stressed and unhappy. He turned to meditation to find answers to his own questions about the purpose of life. His first meditation was transformational, and he soon gave up his addictions, slept better, and found he was happier. Soon, our entire family (and extended community) were recruited to learn how to be quiet.
Meditation is a technique that settles the mind from the constant chatter and chaos that surrounds us. Mindfulness is being more aware of our thoughts, bodies and surroundings. Meditation and mindfulness help us self-regulate our bodies, and be more in control, emotionally and physically, of how we react to everyday stress. Research in the last decade has shown that meditation has physical and emotional benefits, ranging from reducing cholesterol to helping depression to increasing empathy.
Current statistics estimate that over 2.6 million children in the US, between ages 6-17 years old, have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Before reading on, take a deep breath and process that - our children are stressed and overwhelmed in life even before they reach adulthood.
Teaching kids how to slow down, to regulate their breath, to shift from a negative to positive dialogue, and even how to be grateful, can be transformational.
I know from personal experience how meditation can empower kids to feel resilient and strong. Simple techniques, like conscious breathing or mindful walking, teach children that they can shift their body and mind from natural fight or flight reactions in stressful situations to more controlled, empowered reactions.
I wrote, Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement and More, an illustrated book for 8-12 year olds, because I believe that kids can lead our society to a better place.
I have found that children can be at ease with short meditations and mindfulness techniques if they are presented in a fun way.
In fact, children are often able to sense their body and feelings more innocently and honestly than adults. And, when children are excited by something, they will share what they are doing with their friends and parents. When I go to classrooms, the children and I practice cooling down breathing techniques and the tree yoga pose – ways in which we can use fun, physical techniques to feel differently and find quiet balance. I invariably get emails from teachers and parents afterwards about how much fun they had, and how the kids remind each other to take a deep breath before a test or game.
The most important part of my meditation journey as a child was that my parents never forced me to meditate.
Rather, they practiced their techniques and we saw that they were happier and our family was more connected. As kids, my brother and I followed our parents’ example.
Throughout my life, I have been an irregular meditator. But the feeling of connection I experienced as a child stayed with me, even when I wasn’t meditating regularly. And then, when I wanted to start my practice again, it was there, inside me all along.
We live in a hyper connected and overstimulated society, and our kids today are experiencing the effects of our busy, goal oriented, materialistic lifestyles. Kids and adults will benefit – at home and in the classroom - from meditation and mindfulness techniques to deal with stress and anxiety.
We can all learn how to slow down, pause, and be more mindful in our thoughts and activities.
But, as a parent, I hope for so much more for our kids. I hope that with silence, with connection, with being at ease with themselves, kids will feel more security, freedom and joy every day.
Check out the mindfulness meditation for kids and youth that I developed for the calm app.
Mallika Chopra is a mom, media entrepreneur, public speaker and published author. Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement and More, her latest project, is an accessible, fun, how-to book filled with full-color illustrations written for 8-12 year olds. In Living With Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy, Mallika shares personal stories and insights she gained while seeking balance as a mom and entrepreneur who felt she was overwhelmed by work, family and too many responsibilities. Mallika has taught meditations to thousands of people, and enjoys speaking to audiences around the world about intention, balance and living a life of purpose.