What if the key to helping your children manage anxiety, respond healthfully to conflict, and perform better in school was as simple as five minutes of silence in the morning?
Columbia City resident and local yoga instructor Amy Rider King believes it’s just that easy.
King has seen countless benefits for her 6-year-old son since introducing mindfulness meditation exercises into her family’s daily routine three years ago. "His constitution is really active. He’s a child that would be diagnosed with having attention deficit or something by a school district … He needs somebody to help guide him, to help find that inner stillness."
And the results are proof enough for her. With only a few minutes of meditation in the morning, King happily reports her son finds it much easier to concentrate in school, listens authentically to his peers and teachers, and easily empathizes with others.
"When other kids say [hurtful words] to him, it just crushes him ... so I see him not using any hurtful speech. He might do things to push the rules and expectations, but he’s never going to be the one saying some hurtful thing. That, I feel, is because of introducing him to compassion and empathy through mindfulness."
While mindfulness seems like a buzzword in today’s parenting circles, its clout is backed up with solid science. A 2008 Stanford study found that "even a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity." While a brain cortex study in 2005 even indicated, "Regular practice of meditation is associated with increased thickness in a subset of cortical regions related to somatosensory, auditory, visual and introspective processing."
A solid meditation routine doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth either. King and her son meditate every day before school for just two to three minutes—after a little light yoga to get out the wiggles.
"Sometimes we face each other, sometimes we sit back to back, and sometimes we don’t have any touching," King says. "It totally soothes his nervous system. It’s like he has an ancient connection to sitting upright."
To guide her son, King will occasionally feed him words to correspond with his breath. "It helps him when you say, ‘Inhale, peace’ and ‘exhale, love.’ Or ‘Inhale, be; exhale, still.’"
Their morning routine culminates with her son’s favorite activity: setting a goal for his day and blowing out a candle.
"Even if we don’t get a chance to do yoga or sit, he always blows out the Buddha candle and sets an intention. I’m really trying to work with him on the idea that he really creates his own experience."
King, who teaches classes for children at Lotus Yoga and for in-crisis highschool students at the Interagency Academy, notes that regardless of how they enjoy the yoga practice, all of her students adore shavasana—the final, meditative pose of lying on one’s back and surrendering to gravity.
"Like adults, they all just need rest," King says. "They just have no time in their day when there’s not a demand on them."
And as for family dynamics, giving the kids a little R&R might even lead to greater empathy with their parents. King recalls, "Yesterday I didn’t have time to practice by myself. We sat down for dinner and said a blessing and he was like, ‘That’s what you need, Mom. More of this.’ And he pulled his hands to his heart and took a deep breath. I was wowed."
one For larger households, try sitting with everyone in the morning, then once again after school for the older children.
two Add a minute or two to your kids’ meditation practice every school year.
three Allow your kids to each pick out their own meditation cushion.
Book "Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm, and Relaxed" by Christopher Willard
Game "Manifest Your Magnificence" affirmation cards