With the advent of the recent tragedy in Japan, and now military involvement in Libya - children often feel powerless and sad hearing about other kids in such situations. This is a healthy response. One way to nurture kid's positive emotional health and sense of power in this situation is to teach them how to use their mind.
One way to teach kids about the power of their mind is through meditation. Meditation is no longer reserved for monks on mountaintops but can be a tool to use in everyday parenting. Some meditations are designed to calm a child's mind, raise their sense of mindfulness and expand their heart to others.
Specifically, a loving-kindness meditation is a certain type of meditation that guides children to send their positive and healing energy to people and kids in other places. It cuts across all cultural barriers, economic statuses, educational backgrounds and geographic locations. Kelley, a mother of two girls, guides her children nightly in a loving-kindness meditation. It goes something like this:
[Read by parent to child]
"Today, we are going to do something new. It's called a loving-kindness meditation where we send love and positive energy to parents and kids in other places.
You may leave your eyes open or closed - whatever is more comfortable for you.
First, think of something you REALLY love. It may be a puppy, playing on the swings, singing your favorite song or playing on the WEI system. Make sure you really FEEL that feeling. It is the feeling of a happy heart. Do you feel it? [Wait for a YES] Great!
Now, let's send that loving energy - picture it like a ball of light - to other living beings to help them feel loved and lift their spirits. Do you want to start with your friends? [Wait for a yes] Great! Let's name them, Kayla, Peter, Joey, Suzy, Sam and so on. Now, let's send this feeling of love to your family members like Grandma and Cousin Charlie. Let's name them together: Dad, Maria, Sister Sally, and so on... Great Job! Now, let's send those feel-good feelings to people in our community like teachers, and neighbors. Would you like to start? [Wait for YES, or get the "ball rolling" with teachers]. Name them...
You are so powerful and great at doing this that we can also together send our loving energy to other parents, kids and animals all over planet earth especially to those kids and people who need it most.
Let's send this loving and healing energy to: Kids all around the planet! Specifically, let's send love to kids that are hungry, sad, have tummy aches, are upset and need a friend - especially the kids in Japan where there was a tidal wave or tsunami. We can now do the same thing for parents everywhere - let's send our love to parents in the mountains, in the desert, in the valleys and on the beach. Specially, let's name places - like Egypt, China, Africa, Europe, United States, and especially places like Japan and Libya. These are where parents need extra love right now.
Wow, you are great at this! The last beings we will send love to tonight are the animals on planet Earth. Would you like to do this? [Wait for yes] Great! Let's start with dolphins, whales, hawks, butterflies, ladybugs, praying mantises, turtles and what else? Name them...
All of this loving energy you "put out" into the world through your mind is AMAZING. It has great power. You are full of light, love and power!
Guiding your child to use their mind as a "force for good" is a powerful lesson for them. The loving-kindness meditation helps them direct their mind, and simultaneously empowers them. It says that you are strong, capable and have power to send positive wishes - wishes that are as real as the chair you are sitting in - to other kids, parents, and animals around the globe. It is a good way with consistent practice (daily, weekly) to nurture your child's sense of inner power. Some other important points about making this part of your parenting program are:
- Give your child a choice. It is important to never coerce or force your child to do this meditation after they learn it - but simply offer it as a choice, and if they say "not tonight" because they are cranky or sleepy, just kiss them and say good night.
- Practice it yourself first. Become comfortable generating a feeling of loving-kindness in yourself, and sending it to others. Loving-kindness is the feeling and thought of unconditional love and compassion for all beings. By being able to do this yourself, it will help you genuinely and authentically guide your child to do the same.
- Customize it for your child. Every child is different and making it powerful for your child is your role. You may do it as a bedtime ritual, Sunday morning practice, or something more creative with drawing love going to all the people, places and animals on planet Earth that need it. It really depends on what you think will "light up" your child and help them internalize a sense of their power.
The more we guide children to develop their internal qualities like love and compassion then send them to other kids around the globe - they develop a sense of their powerfulness versus powerlessness. The loving-kindness meditation shared above is one way that parents, teachers and adults can develop this deeper strength on a daily or weekly basis.
By Maureen Healy, founder of Growing Happy Kids
More information: www.growinghappykids.com, or www.twitter.com/mdhealy (to follow)
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