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Mindfulness and Meditation: Helping Stressed Out Kids Cope

Teaching children (and adults) meditation can help them deal with stress.

The reality of living in our fast-paced, technology-filled, multi-tasking society can cause a lot of stress for everyone, including children. Our modern culture is affecting our human interaction and experiences; mindfulness and meditation could be good options for dealing with stress. Mindfulness is being aware of the present. Meditation is a tool to help bring about such awareness.

Young children are increasingly experiencing stress, anxiety and depression when dealing with a complicated world that may include such things as poverty, parents who are substance abusers or perhaps just overly busy. They are burdened with full schedules of their own and often absorb their parents’ or caregivers’ stress, even when it is unintentional or maybe not noticed.

Christopher Willard points to the existing trend of children using electronics in his book, Child’s Mind, “…kids spend more time on passive entertainment such as portable game systems, cellphones, and television rather than actively engaging the world.” He suggests that mindfulness offers an effective path for people of all ages and backgrounds to develop healthy response to a chaotic world around them and often inside of them.

Individuals and families can use meditation and mindfulness practices as accessible tools to support their mental health and as a preventive measure also. These practices can easily be integrated into a busy lifestyle with a small amount planned quiet time. By practicing mindfulness or meditation, we develop and strengthen our ability to calm and quiet our thoughts and actions, and eventually we are able to quiet our mind without struggling. Just by sitting and “doing nothing,” we are actually doing a lot.

Consider the following insightful definitions and differences between mindfulness and meditation.

  • “I define mindfulness as the practice of being fully present and alive, body and mind united. Mindfulness is the energy that helps us to know what is going on in the present moment. Mindfulness brings concentration and this skill of concentrating grows that as we continue the practice, we gain insight into our lives.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)
  • “Meditation is needed in developing mental qualities. The mind is definitely something that can be transformed, and meditation is a means to transform it.” (His Holiness the Dalia Lama.)
  • “Meditation: To engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
  • According to Buddhist teaching, mindfulness is “noticing” any number of objects, whereas meditation is the focus on a single object, possibly the breath.

Chronic stress can lead to many health problems and diseases. We need to enable our children by teaching them appropriate skills to deal with the stress that life may throw their way, and by trying to get schools on board with the benefits of mindfulness and meditation practices.

Everyone can benefit from learning to set aside a specific time to disconnect weekly, or a little bit daily, and enjoy a rest from hectic routines. Practice and learn to listen to the quite for a healthier life.

More from Constance Scharff Ph.D.
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