When it comes to the best age to start meditating, the answer for those yet to make this practice part of their lives is “whatever age you are right now”. Whether you are a student just setting out on your future or a long-time retiree, meditation has a myriad of benefits just waiting to be discovered.
But while meditation is a fantastic habit for people whatever their age, the argument to introduce this practice to children is becoming ever stronger, especially as young people face new and more complicated challenges.
In a world that’s developing quicker than ever before, children are growing up fast. Not only are they forced to deal with the usual stresses of school, new friendships and family frustrations but they also often feel the need to keep up with the latest gadgets, consume the infinite browsing capacities of the Internet and manage the enormous pressures of social media.
We get it. It’s a complex world to navigate – no wonder it can quickly become overwhelming for a young person! Unfortunately, more and more children are feeling the effects of stress and exhaustion in their developmental years which, as a result, can greatly affect their ability to cope with life’s challenges in later life.
Recent surveys have revealed that more children today have more problems with their mental health than 30 years ago. In previous generations, children were more likely to be playing outdoors and grounding themselves in nature, whereas now the distractions of TV, games consoles and mobile phones can make it difficult to unplug and unfortunately lead to a reduced attention span in young people.
Further research has shown that mental health problems affect around 1 in 10 children and often arise as a direct result of what is happening in their lives. More worryingly, 70% of children who have had a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
And, while we may think that children don’t have much to worry about, their daily concerns and stresses can be surprisingly similar to those of adults. Panicking that there is too much to do and not enough time in the day, or being unable to sleep, are symptoms of stress that both the younger and older generation suffer from alike.
How Meditation Can Help Children of All Ages
Emotional wellbeing is just as important for a child’s development as their physical wellbeing. We believe it is imperative that we, as responsible adults (most of the time!), equip the younger generation with safe coping mechanisms and the tools to express themselves.
Mantra-based meditation is an invaluable tool that will allow children to read and respond to internal signals, reducing their impulsivity before they develop a full-blown tantrum.
Teaching children practical skills such as Beeja meditation helps them to adjust to different situations, deal with stress, recognise their potential and grow into their fullest self. Our hope is that parents and schools alike will be able to teach meditation to allow future generations to become the happiest, healthiest and most balanced they can be.
In Baltimore, USA, one particular school replaced the standard after-school detention with a more holistic and progressive approach: requesting the child to meditate instead. This interesting technique meant that children were not required to evaluate their behaviour through punishment, but instead asked them to focus on the present moment – encouraging them to manage their reactions better and therefore providing more value in the long term.
Meanwhile, in California, another school extended its school hours by an extra half hour to incorporate meditation time, which resulted in better attendance and grades, less detentions, and generally more happy children. Research has supported this, stating that meditation helps young people to reduce their anxiety and boost their memories.
Closer to home, at the Maharishi School in Lancashire, the pupils are taught “conscious-based” education and each day is punctuated with two sessions of Transcendental Meditation. The teachers have said that the children are more receptive, relaxed and well-balanced after a meditation and, as a result, the school’s exam results are so good that in 2019, they were in the top 1.8% nationally.
In other words, it is never too early to begin teaching children the basic fundamentals of meditation – there are just different ways to approach the practice that are suitable for different age groups.
In fact, we’re so passionate about providing meditation opportunities for young people, that we appeared on Sky News and ITV to promote the importance of meditation lessons for children.
Starting Meditation with Young Children (aged 5-9 years)
We believe that children are never too young to begin a meditative practise. However, for those under 10, it’s not practical to expect them to be able to meditate in the same way as an adult. It’s often more effective to use movement of the body, while gently encouraging the child to focus on the movement itself, as a way to focus the mind.
Another technique is to provide the child with a ‘word of wisdom’, which they are asked to focus on as they play. Again, this word is a way for them to begin exploring their meditative roots without demanding too much concentration and only needs to be practised for a few minutes a day.
Meditation for Older Children (10-15 years)
As children mature into their teenage years, their capacity for more focused meditation increases. At the same time, they are experiencing a whole range of new emotions as their hormones develop – meaning that this is a critical time where meditation can really provide the support to cope.
Children of this age are just learning how to deal with their internal environment and can hugely benefit from some instruction on how to meditate at this stage. Being guided towards simple focused awareness helps them to connect to themselves and others around them.
This age bracket is able to use the same eyes-closed technique as adults, but only needs to do so for a limited amount of time – for example, a minute for every year of their age. In this way, a 10 year old should attempt a 10 minute meditation.
This short session will provide them with everything they need to nourish their body and mind, and therefore allow them to achieve their fullest potential in all aspects of life.
Meditation for Young Adults (16+ years)
As the teenage years progress, children are forced to grow into young adults and are presented with more challenges than ever before. The pressures of exams, changing schools, finding first-time jobs and entering into university can quickly become overwhelming and result in acute stress.
Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” and, indeed, this is one of the most significant factors affecting young people today.
By the age of 16 and above, these young adults are able to participate in the full adult technique of meditation – giving them the essential tools they need to meditate confidently and start living a healthier and happier life. Learning to develop the pause needed between stimulus and reaction is an extremely important life lesson that is best taught through meditation during the teenage years, when a young person is more likely to be feeling overwhelmed by conflicting emotions.
It’s important to remember that, while we may be keen for our children to meditate, we cannot force them – to do so may only discourage them further. The best we can do is provide gentle encouragement and perhaps lead by example, using our own practise as an exemplary benchmark.
If you’re a parent or teacher, and you’re interested in finding out more about how meditation can help children manage stress, then get in touch today to find out more information about how a Beeja beginner’s meditation course can help.