Thinking good thoughts about themselves and others can help kids be happier and healthier. Loving-kindness meditation toward themselves and others can comfort and strengthen young hearts.
Loving-kindness is a meditation practice that consists of sending love, kindness, and compassion by directing positive thoughts, good intentions, or well wishes toward ourselves and others.
When people practice loving-kindness meditation on a regular basis, they feel a sense of goodness about themselves and others. It produces a reaction in the brain similar to when one engages in acts of kindness, producing positive feelings that can lead to positive behaviors. Practicing loving-kindness meditation has been shown to decrease stress and anger and increase feelings of hope, empathy and self-esteem. Here’s how to develop this practice with your kids!
- Choose a place for your child that’s free from distractions and let them sit or lay comfortably.
- They should close their eyes to avoid any visual distractions.
- Your child can place one or both hands on their heart and take three deep breaths.
- Ask your child to repeat these phrases silently in their head a few times. Then, instruct them to direct the same phrases towards other people, such as a loved one, a difficult person, or the world.
- May I be happy
- May I be healthy
- May I be safe
- May I be peaceful
Keep it Short at First
Sitting still and focusing can be challenging for children and adults alike. Keeping meditation short in the beginning can be helpful in maintaining young kids’ interest, attention and focus. For young children, three to five minutes is a good starting point.
Change the Words in the Intentions
When saying these phrases, your child may not believe them in the moment. Encourage them to say them anyway, as they may lead to greater empathy and heartfulness toward self and others.
Parents and children can be creative by coming up with their own loving-kindness intentions. For example:
- May I/You/We be free from danger
- May I/You/We be filled with comfort
- May I/You/We have a good day
Spread Loving-Kindness Together
When you meditate with your kids, you are leading by example. Not all children will be receptive to meditation at first, so encourage your child to continue meditating even if they belittle it. Discuss with them your feelings about meditation and how you think it may help them. Never push your child, though, as this may cause resistance to meditation.
Loving-kindness meditation should never be a replacement for professional mental health care if your child is struggling with clinical issues such as anxiety, depression, or other serious problems. Consult with a mental health professional if you have concerns about your child.
Frank J. Sileo, PhD is an award-winning children’s book author and psychologist based in New Jersey.
In Magination Press book, Bee Heartful: Spread Loving-Kindness by Frank J. Sileo, PhD, Bentley Bee sends loving-kindness thoughts to himself and others and can feel his heart growing.
This column is adapted from the “Note to Adult Beekeepers.” You can see other books in the series, including Bee Calm: The Buzz on Yoga and Bee Still: An Invitation to Mediation, to get more tips and tools to teach these practices to young readers. Use code PTA2020 at the Magination Press checkout and receive 20% off your purchase of any Magination Press title!