Calm and Peaceful Children
In my work as a licensed psychotherapist over these last 25 years, I draw from many great teachers and mentors. One of these teachers was Virginia Satir. Her question to families coming into counseling has become my question: “ What kind of human being do I want my child to become?” and “How can I go about making that happen?”
Parents and teachers, two of the most difficult jobs in the world, would agree that they would want their children become the thoughtful, honest, self respecting, confident, loving and able to get along with others.
Meditation is one of the most important ways we can help children become the adults who will embody these qualities. Meditation helps children cope with their lives by creating a sense of pause, focusing on our breathe, visualizing a calm scene or being in the here and now. This quiet moment contrasts with our world today as it dominates everything and everyone in it with computer technology, flashing constant images, electronic games, television, mobile phones, social media and constant activity.
Often life’s stress is greater than the child’s ability to negotiate that stress resulting in an anxious child, maybe some acting out behaviors, difficulty sleeping, impaired attention, eating too little or eating too much. Because there is less and less time to experience tranquility,the child’s inner life suffers. A child requires some space and time where he or she is able to find their own identity, the place where creativity lives, the place where a connection to their being resides. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is taught in more than 200 medical centers, hospitals and clinics; more than 1,300 published studies show symptom reductions across a wide range of mental health diagnoses as well as neurobiological impacts. (Mindful Schools of Oakland CA. a not-for-profit training organization)
One of the children I’ve worked with was a 10 year old girl who came in to see me for therapy. She was experiencing overwhelming fear and anxiety of not passing her weekly tests in school. She was having difficulty sleeping, had night terrors when she fell asleep, and was beginning to have behavior tantrums when she couldn’t have her way. She was overwhelmed with pressure from peers and was beginning to have mild but concerning panic like attacks.
I worked with the 10 year old and her mom teaching them both some simple breathing exercises. Along with a little play therapy and some laughter based solutions to her difficulties,
therapy was complete within 4 months. As my most profound meditation teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, would say “
“Your mind is like a piece of land planted with many different kinds of seeds: seeds of joy, peace, mindfulness, understanding, and love; seeds of craving, anger, fear, hate, and forgetfulness. These wholesome and unwholesome seeds are always there, sleeping in the soil of your mind. The quality of your life depends on the seeds you water. If you plant tomato seeds in your gardens, tomatoes will grow. Just so, if you water a seed of peace in your mind, peace will grow. When the seeds of happiness in you are watered, you will become happy. When the seed of anger in you is watered, you will become angry. The seeds that are watered frequently are those that will grow strong.” ( Thich Nhat Hanh in Anh-Huong & Hanh, 2006, 22)
The following is a a Simple Meditation for Parents or Teachers: Calm and Peaceful Feelings
Have the child sit in a comfortable relaxed position. Children squirm and move around a bit when they sit. If your child does this, it’s normal. The main objective is for the child to become aware of his/her breath. When doing this simple exercise, it’s most important to allow the child a child’s space. There must be no criticizing, judgement, or demands. Always invite the child to participate. It helps if you yourself have a meditation practice. When you model sitting in silence, you are their best teacher.
Invite the child to point to the place where they think their breath is coming into their body (nostrils usually, maybe mouth). Have the child find where in their body that air is taken. You can point them to their abdomen, belly, or chest. You can make a game of this. Thich Nhat Hanh has a beautiful meditation “breathing in I smile, breathing out I am at peace.” You might like to try that with your child.
A few minutes of breathing to begin with younger children, longer as they get the hang of it.
Give lots of praise for being able to breath calm and peaceful feelings, for seeing their body expand as they breathe, and for being silent.
Simple yet effective.
By teaching our children that there is a calm and beauty within them, we can begin to create a harmony between the body and mind that helps them negotiate the world that surrounds them.
In conclusion: I believe it’s important to begin to teach our children a calmness and beauty that is within them and which creates harmony between body and mind.
The lyrics of a Whitney Houston song so soulfully sung say it all:
“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”
Georgiana Lotfy, LMFT, Doctor of Ministry is available through her website:
Georgiana Lotfy is a Licensed Psychotherapist, Doctor of Ministry, she meditates, breathes, helps others, prays, speaks, writes, is a sleep advocate, and dreams deep dreams
In collaboration with Elith Lund, MA in Clinical Psychology, Educator of children and adolescents for over 20 years