Things were already tense. I was the enforcer, laying out the rules. She was the rebel – avoiding them all. We were both fraying. In an effort to create some positive space, to lighten the moment and ease the stress, I decided we would meditate.
She was little, maybe three, and I had her sit with me – against her will. Showed her how to take deep breaths, as I did, and watched as she nearly hyperventilated. The only thing stopping her was the frequent pauses she took to ask questions: “Why are we doing this mommy?” “Mommy, why does your tummy move in and out when you breath?” “Where are your lungs?” “When can we be done.”
Soothing? No. Enlightening? Nuh-uh.
None-the-less, I have meditated with Sweet P since and together we’ve tried other spiritual practices too – the same ones I use and talk about in these pages.
Spirituality isn’t exclusive. It isn’t simply a grown up thing. It’s an aspect of every being. By showing your kids how to tap into their spiritual center, you’re also giving them coping skills, which will help them throughout their lives.
Ways to connect with the spiritual side of your child
Here are three practices you can do with your kids:
Meditation: When meditating with your kids, make this more about deep breathing and calm. Sit across from them, criss-cross-applesauce, or in chairs facing each other with knees touching. You could even hold hands and breath in unison. Match your breaths with your child’s, slow and deep until you share the rhythm. Focus only on taking these breaths together. Try to sit for five minutes. No talking. Just focused breath.
Visualization: I’ve done this a lot with my daughter when she’s having anxiety about school or coming down with an illness. We’ve also visualized our “perfect days” and I like this practice best of all, because it’s something I can do with her at bedtime, when she closes her eyes and relaxes.
Have your child lay down and get comfortable. Then, have him imagine the different muscles relaxing in different parts of his body, start with the feet and move up to the head, even relaxing the brow. Then, simply tell a story with him as the focus and each detail working out ideally. Have him imagine the positive emotions he’ll feel as his head becomes clear and his body feels optimal health. Imagine the warmth he’ll experience when he treats another kindly or does well on a school exam. Create the story, place him in it, and have him not only visualize the experience, but feel this emotion as though it’s happening. Powerful stuff.
Appreciation: Compassion. Gratitude. These are the biggies and should not only be a focal point of your family’s spiritual heartbeat, but a focal point of your life. When we can appreciate each moment, experience gratitude for the smallest things we not only feel better but we are more compassionate and loving towards others. Each day, as you eat Cheerios with your child, foster conversation about the good things in life. Ask what she is grateful for and when she tells you, ask her how those things make her feel. This is a great thing to do at bedtime too. Or, even after a difficult incident when things have calmed down but your child is feeling separate or bad. You can talk with her about what isn’t feeling good and then move into gratitude.
Gratitude connects you to the goodness in your world. Remember too, there are no wrong answers. It’s normal for your child to feel grateful for her stuff – hers toys and candy and late bedtimes and other pleasures. Help her connect to the good feelings those items or events prompt. As she becomes aware of the goodness in her life she’ll start to consciously discover it on her own.
These practices are a great way to connect with your child, but they also help build habits that will guide them for a lifetime.
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