As meditation becomes more and more popular among adults, teaching meditation to children is being promoted as a way to create centeredness and focus at a tender age. Yet many teachers and parents recognize the difficulty of a young child to silence the mind and sit still.
As a result, a variety of “children’s meditations” are being invented that often use imagination, focusing on the breath or trying to find stillness within. Unwittingly, these practices have been introduced to children without any track record of success and little if any scientific research on the effects they may have on a child’s brain and development.
Some Parents Wonder?
- Should children be taught to discipline their minds or channel their imagination for specific purposes?
- At what age is it appropriate for my child to meditate?
- What kind of practice is safe and effective for children?
- Is there any tradition, precedence or scholarly authority behind the practice of children’s meditation?
- Is meditation something I can teach my child, or do along with them?
The ancient, venerated Vedic Tradition of meditation prescribes different practices at specific stages of development in the child’s life. Because very young children are still integrating their inner world with the outer world around them, they may find it difficult to practice a meditation that requires them to sit still or inhibits their natural inclination to know and discover. Attempts to settle a child through directing their attention to breathing or trying to create inner silence may instead cause strain and frustration for the exuberant, growing child.
Transcendental Meditation Technique (TM)
One technique of meditation that has been successfully introduced to many middle and high schools throughout America and around the world is the Transcendental Meditation technique. Based on the broad spectrum of scientific research on the effectiveness of the TM technique for students,  educators have felt confident that the Transcendental Meditation program is a safe and reliable practice to help children cope with stress and improve learning ability  and behavior . Over 140,000 school children around the world have learned the TM technique in the past three years.
Tm Techniques and The Brain
Science has looked at what happens in a the brain during the practice of the TM technique. Findings indicate a healthy development of coherence and balance between all parts of the brain, with increased activation of the pre-frontal cortex , the part of the brain responsible for discrimination and higher reasoning.
Notably, this type of holistic brain functioning is not found while a child is studying, playing, watching TV, or listening to music; nor does this balanced, holistic brain functioning come about through other types of meditation exercises, such as minding the breath, visualizing, or directing the imagination.
All such activities activate specific areas of the brain. Only the meditative state associated with ‘transcending’ during TM practice has been found to activate the entire brain in this holistic way.
Practice of the TM technique not only stimulates brain development and learning ability in children, but also provides natural relief from stress, anxiety,  depression  and fatigue.
TM Techniques and Anxiety Disorders
“One of the best-documented ways to address anxiety in children is to teach them to deeply relax themselves. Children and adolescents often encounter stress at home and at school” says Dr. William Stixrud, clinical neuropsychologist and faculty at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C..
“If you can effectively treat a child’s anxiety problems, you significantly decrease the likelihood that they’re going to develop depression, or addictive behaviors, or other kinds of mental health problems. Transcendental Meditation becomes a very important tool, not only in the treatment of children with anxiety problems, but also in the prevention of anxiety disorders.”
Reducing stress  and increasing inner happiness increases flexibility, social abilities and self esteem. Children who find approval from within rather than needing it from the outside, are less influenced by peer pressure. Cultivating the practice of meditation can become a valuable tool that a child uses as he matures, preparing him to meet the stresses and challenges of adulthood.
Appropriate Time for Meditation
What is the appropriate time in a child’s development to sit and practice eyes-closed meditation?
According to the tradition of the Transcendental Meditation program—the Vedic Tradition—no sooner than ten years of age. Starting with just a few minutes morning and afternoon, children ten and older find the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique easy to master because it doesn’t require focus, concentration or that they sit still. Even children with ADHD are able to practice this meditation successfully .
What about children under ten?
A special practice appropriate for the developmental stage of early childhood it is the Maharishi Word of Wisdom technique. This eyes-open meditation can be learned by children starting at ages three to four.
This practice strengthens the mind and stabilizes the emotions of the young child. The children’s TM technique is practiced a few minutes each day with eyes open, while the child is quietly engaged in easy, natural activities such as walking or coloring.
The children’s technique has been found to promote balance in mind and body and integrate the child’s nervous system.  The child grows in stability in relation to the outer world and does not become introverted or withdrawn by attempting many such meditative practices that would be unnatural for them.
Benefits of Parents Meditating with Children
Children benefit most from meditation when their parents are also meditating. A family that meditates together typically finds that their home life grows more harmonious and blissful. There’s more time for nourishing interactions when stress is released during meditation instead of outbursts and arguments.
So what will it be for your children, zoning out in front of the TV,
or a few minutes of daily meditation?
1. Broader comprehension and improved ability to focus Perceptual and Motor Skills (39: 1031–1034, 1974) Increased calmness Physiology & Behavior (35: 591–595, 1985) Improved Academic Performance. Education 107 (1986): 49–54; Education 109 (1989): 302–304; Modern Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 17 (2005): 65–91.
2. Nidich S.I., et al. School effectiveness: Achievement gains at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. Education 107: 49-54, 1986. Fergusson L.C. Field Independence and art achievement in meditating and nonmeditating college students. Perceptual and Motor Skills 75: 1171-1175, 1992.
3. Barnes V.A., et al. Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 1:10, 2003.
4. Increased EEG Coherence during Transcendental Meditation. International Journal of Neuroscience 14: 147–151, 1981.
5. Dillbeck M.C. The effect of the Transcendental Meditation technique on anxiety level. Journal of Clinical Psychology 33: 1076-1078, 1977.
6. Decreased depression and Transcendental Meditation Journal of Counseling and Development (64: 212–215, 1985)
7. Barnes V. A., et al. Impact of Transcendental Meditation on cardiovascular function at rest and during acute stress in adolescents with high normal blood pressure. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 51, 597-605, 2001.
8. Use of the Transcendental Meditation technique to reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by reducing stress and anxiety. Current Issues in Education: Volumn 10, 2008. 9. Alexander C.N., et al. Effect of Practice of The Children’s Transcendental Meditation Technique on Cognitive Stage Development: Acquisition And Consolidation of Conservation, Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 17, 21-46, 2005.
Source by Tom Ball