Every time we listen to the news on the radio, watch it on TV or surf social media and the internet when our kids are around – they absorb what they hear and see. Even if they don’t understand it.
So we have a choice. We can either shield children completely from the world around them (but how do we stop this going on in the playground at school, sometimes in the classroom and at sleepovers?) Or we can help them build their resilience and cope with the ‘bad things and people’ in this world.
So what is resilience? It is the ‘capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
Before we go into this in more detail, let me explain one of the myths that people have about meditation.
Often people start to learn mindfulness in the hope that they will never feel pain, sadness, anger, fear or (put name of difficult feeling in here) again. That is simply not true.
What you learn through meditation is to manage, process and cope with those difficult feelings and thoughts. In other words you build resilience to adversity. Mindfulness can also provide the motivation for change or even the creative solution to the problem creating the adversity.
So for me it is a no-brainer about teaching our kids this. We are creating a very hostile world through politics, materialism and terrorism. Offering our children a mindfulness skill doesn’t mean they won’t have to live in this world, but it will give them the skills to navigate it (and when they become adults, world leaders and inventors, perhaps they will change it!)
But let’s take the aspects of resilience one by one and see how meditation could really help kids learn and develop this for their futures.
According to Psychcentral, resilience has 5 key factors:
No. 1 – Relationships
“A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.”
Before you even think about teaching your kids meditation, consider learning meditation for you as an adult.
If you do, it teaches you how to connect to your children. You would think it was obvious that all parents feel a loving connection with their kids. But many don’t simply because their role models fell short of offering this love and trust. So we enter a cycle that perpetuates from generation to generation. I often meet adults on my Connected Kids courses who learn how to work and heal that aspect of their own childhood. We show them how practising mindfulness in addition to teaching children meditation is a journey of personal development.
Ultimately teaching your kids meditation helps children to develop self love and compassion. If they can source this within themselves, then their future relationships will be open to love and trust, regardless of how their childhood played out.
No. 2 – Planning
“The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.”
Studies show that brain function requires each part of the brain to connect and play it’s part. If the left side (the logical) doesn’t communicate with the right side (emotional) then their is an imbalance – and stress. Stress affects our children’s learning and education.
If the pre-frontal cortex (the part that sits behind your brow) doesn’t develop, then it interferes with the ability to plan. If children can’t access this part of their brain (underdeveloped because of stress or other factors) then how can they integrate into society? How can they study, take on an apprenticeship, pay their taxes, own a home..
If we teach children meditation, the pre-frontal cortex is engaged (brain scans prove this) and it develops and their planning skills will help them reach their full potential.
No. 3 – Self esteem
“A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities”
Our ability to pick ourselves up after adversity is because of our self esteem. Life has challenges and our kids are going to face this time and time again (from school to old age). Abuse of alcohol or drugs is the road many young people take as they lack the self esteem to deal with challenges.
One of the things I’ve learned about meditation is to accept who I am – not just the likeable bits but the bits I don’t like. Learning mindfulness has influenced my choices in life and who I spend my time with and how I treat my body with food and alcohol. Teaching kids meditation will help them accept the whole person that they are, not some idealistic, perfectionist view that the world has of who a person should be.
Meditation can also create a more positive body image for people as recent studies have shown.
“Self-compassion meditation may be a useful and cost-effective means of improving body image in adult women.” Source >>>
No. 4 – Communication and problem solving
Here we are taken back to the pre-frontal cortex which engages the brain in problem solving. Our abillty to provide a solution comes from the connectivity of our cognitive functions. Once we have a solution, we often wish to share this and we need the ability and space to do this.
Mindfulness in speech and listening is one of the most powerful things we can practice with our children. Adults don’t listen (we have our own agenda’s – sorry but it is true). I often meet adults who are projecting their own thoughts onto kids and teens so this shuts down communication. If we can sit with children and just listen, children feel heard and this can help them present solutions that are simple and effective.
No. 5 – Self regulation
“The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses”
I’ve talked about emotional intelligence in previous blogs but one of the quickest ways to help our children cope is to give them a skill that recognises their feelings. Dr Dan Siegel does some excellent work and provides some great strategies. If you read his books you’ll see he is proposing an intuitive form of mindfulness to help children manage their feelings and impulses.
Practising meditation as an adult would also give us the ability to tune into this before a molehill becomes a mountain.