Now as someone who has taught and campaigned for children and young people to learn meditation and mindfulness for the past 17 years, you think my automatic answer would be a resounding ‘YES’!
But actually it isn’t…and I’ll tell you why.
You see it’s the word ‘compulsory’ that doesn’t sit comfortably with me.
That very definition of that word “required by law or a rule; obligatory” takes away choice. And choice is very important when we think about learning and teaching meditation.
In our Connected Kids programme (where we train up people to teach kids/teens meditation), we often get enthusiastic people who who are keen to learn the ‘skills’ that will help them teach their children meditation.
So I ask them a question “do you practice meditation?”
Sometimes the response is an enthusiastic ‘yes’ and at other times there is the shuffling around, no eye-contact response of ‘I would but i don’t have time’.
So it’s okay for your kids to learn to reduce anxiety and stress but you aren’t going to practice?
Or we have people in class who have been meditating for years but their interpretation of meditation is based on their adult experiences with a specific approach or structure that doesn’t lend itself (at first) to any creativity – and in our experience this is a key ingredient if we want to teach kids meditation.
Let’s just say that it can be a learning curve for the group. But what our connected kids students discover when they start teaching children meditation is how it is a very creative, intuitive process and that requires:
- self practice,
- letting go of expectations (adults find that tricky at first)
- being creative and intuitive
- and allowing the teaching meditation to be a shared experience.
If you try to teach it any other way, it doesn’t bring the same long-term benefits. This is especially true for kids with SEN.
So back to this idea of compulsory meditation in schools.
If we make it compulsory then the staff will feel forced to add another ‘to do’ to their checklist of mounting paperwork. How can that be beneficial for the children?
Or perhaps they’ll approach the idea of teaching meditation with the same set structure that might meet the needs of some children, but it won’t for many (we know this having worked with kids with anxiety, SEN; autism and ADHD and others).
Or perhaps it becomes this mind based exercise that they do with kids which lacks the energy of compassion, kindness and intuitive wisdom when we engage the heart?
And what happens to the schools where children practise a religion? Surely a compulsory dictate would start a war of words instead of embracing their own unique prayer practise as a form of meditation?
How we can invite meditation into our schools
If we want our schools to embrace meditation ideas, then the head teachers and the staff have to practice and they have to CHOOSE the style of meditation that works for them. One size does not fit all. Some prefer a mindful approach while others need movement based meditation like Yoga. Or perhaps they already have those meditative moments while running, crafting or cooking and they didn’t even realise!
Then with this experience they can trust their instincts to provide a ‘meditation toolkit’ that children can choose from depending on what the needs are – helping the staff to mindfully meet children where they are at.
If children choose not to meditate then that is the way it is. You can’t force anyone to meditate. Yes you can get them to sit still and close their eyes – but this is not meditation. This is just sitting still with your eyes closed.
That won’t teach children meditation and there is the huge chance that it will make them reject anything to do with meditation.
So let’s not make it compulsory to bring meditation into skills. Let’s simply inform, educate, provide the experience and let the benefits of meditation unfold naturally for all – helping each school to design a simple, bespoke way to incorporate it where it naturally helps to reduce staff stress and this helps bring experienced, heart-centered adults to engage and invite children to try it too.
Who’s with me?