For many parents, martial arts are one of the top ways to help their children understand discipline, focus, as well as being a great form of exercise. Some instructors claim that one of the most important aspects of martial arts is meditation. With the foundations of most meditation steeped in religious concepts and it being difficult for children to grasp, are martial arts instructors or parents the best ones to explain this to young minds?
Here are the 5 steps you as parents can explain meditation to your child: practice meditation with them; make it part of the routine; explain what they can expect from meditation; find a way to make it rewarding; and finally, give them time to understand.
Although meditation can sometimes be challenging to comprehend or even start practicing, you can help your child understand more about meditation with these five tips. Let’s talk about the religious foundations of meditation, why they should meditate, how to meditate, and how it can help them both with their martial arts practices and their personal life.
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Explaining Meditation to Your Child
Although there are many types of martial arts for your child to try out, there is one common theme among many of them, the introspective component. Meditation when properly understood and guided by the parent’s religious direction is a crucial part of martial arts because it covers the training of the mind while you are practicing training your body.
For many children, getting them into martial arts in the first place may be an enormous task. (To learn more about how your child can participate in our online martial arts classes with a free trial, check this out.)
It is possible to explain mediation to your child in a way that makes them want to be a more character filled person. This will allow them to focus on practicing more often, as well as improving their quality of life along the way.
Here are five steps that you can use to explain meditation to your child:
- Practice meditation with your child
- This is in line with teaching children to pray and observe other religious aspects of a families faith tradition. Catholics, Buddhists etc. all have meditation practices in their devotional activities.
- Make it part of their routine, or the family routine
- This not only teaches the understanding of meditation itself, it also aids in developing discipline and fortitude.
- Explain what they can expect from meditation
- There are major differences between many religious types of meditation and meditative prayer. Some religions like Buddhism focus on the self whereas Christian and specifically Catholic meditation focuses on the ‘other’.
- Figure out a way to make it rewarding and exciting
- This means give it purpose and relevance. There is nothing more motivating to the human mind than truth and the transformative power it holds.
- Give them time to understand and process feelings and emotions
- It takes time to understand the principles of religious devotion and practice. Help them to understand your reasons for these faith claims and in time, they will come to understand by your example.
When it comes to explaining what meditation is to your child, it can be challenging to figure out where to start. Once you have exposed your child to the meditation connected to your faith, they can discern and apply their understanding of the faith principles you wish to instill when they encounter it in one of their martial arts classes or even public schools.
Why would they encounter it in public schools? Read my article here and you may be amazed at how pervasive a distinctly Eastern Religious form of meditation has been implemented nation wide in our public schools.
To be clear, if your faith has its foundation in Eastern Religious devotion then I am not stating that you should teach your child otherwise. What I am stating is that meditation in a generic sense not only is non-existent, but unbeknownst to many parents not of this religion are not being told of the foundational religious nature of the meditation schools systems are delivering to their children.
Kids are probably going to have questions about why other people meditate, how to participate using your faith tradition and the how other peoples views relate to it. Here are five simple ways to help your child understand meditation.
Practice Meditation and Prayer with Your Child
Possibly the easiest way to help them understand meditation is to practice it with them. Children learn by what you do exponentially more than by what you say. Even younger children can learn the benefits and general practice of prayer and meditation along with a parent or guardian.
If you are currently enrolled in martial arts, you could ask their instructor to ensure that your child is allowed to follow your traditions in meditation when it is done in a group setting. This goes for public schools as well. You would be shocked at the accommodations that are made in both environments for students with parents persistent enough to insist.
Here are some other ways to practice mediation with your child.
- Take prayer and meditation instruction from your local religious leader
- Follow guided prayer or meditation programs of your religious affiliation
- Set aside a period of time during the day for meditation
If your child witnesses you do it, they are more likely to want to join in. By practicing it together, you will also have a better understanding of questions they may have along their journey with both meditation as well as martial arts. You will also be able to help them learn the basics of meditation so that they do not feel overwhelmed or confused.
Western traditions as well as other religious devotional practices many times have things associated with prayer and meditation. Dedicated Spaces, Rosaries, Beads, and Artwork all can be employed to explain reasons and practices to children.
Make Prayer/Meditation a Part of Their Routine
Most people will say that practice makes perfect. If you want your child to fully gain the benefits of meditation for both their public life as well as to improve their performance in martial arts, school or in relationships with friends, try and make meditation a part of their daily routine.
Here are some ideas to help make them familiar with meditation.
- Have them prayerfully meditate in the mornings
- Meditate with them before or after dinner
- Do a nightly prayer to wind down after a long day
- Allow them to meditate or pray before or after their martial arts class
By allowing them the time to focus, it can have a significant impact on behavior both inside and outside of their martial arts classes. It can change how they relate to friends, family, and even those unlike them. With repeated exposure, they will feel more confident to pray and meditate on their own. They will also be able to get more out of meditation in other environments when they become exposed.
Here are couple of websites that point to the differences in meditation as it relates to each religious practice:
- Spirituality (Personalized religion – meditation based on Buddhist framework)
This of course is not an exhaustive list, but you can see that meditation does not itself exist in a vacuum. To adequately explain meditation or prayer (its other name throughout history) to a child, a parent must understand which tradition the practice they choose comes from.
Explain What They Can Expect from Meditation
While adults have been exposed to meditation for thousands of years, today it may be an entirely new concept that they have never considered. Furthermore, the idea of deep contemplation for a younger child may seem impossible.
Help them understand what they can expect from meditation. Explain to them how it can help improve their focus. Let them know that there are physical benefits, such as reduced stress, learning to see life in perspective, and changing themselves in ways that can improve their future. If a child is aware of an individual action’s positive benefits, they are more likely to become interested and stay interested.
This also may be a great time to explain to them how meditation and martial arts benefit from each other. If your child is starting out, they will have little exposure, but if they feel comfortable with the action, they are more likely to stick to their hobby and be excited about progressing their skills and knowledge.
Character is paramount in traditional and some modern forms of martial arts. Meditation, prayer, and self improvement are all integral to forming character. Martial arts can then be used as a tool to strengthen these lessons taught to children by parents and religious leaders.
Be wary of the martial arts instructor that promotes a disconnected form of meditation. There really is no such thing. These practices were designed for a specific purpose, a religious purpose. These instructors should know this since using a technique from any martial art in a way it was not intended could lead to failure or even injury. The same thing applies to meditation.
For more on the adverse effects of attempting to separate meditation from its religious framework, see my article here.
Having your child explore the history of their martial art is vital to understanding how it is applied, and more importantly not applied today. A style’s history tells us today what it was and was not intended for.
This same investigation of meditation is also crucial. This will allow them to have a better understanding as to why meditation and prayer is important, and ways they can incorporate it into their daily lives.
Figure Out a Way to Make it Rewarding and Exciting
Once you explain meditation to your child, they may not seem interested in it. The good news is that you can quickly help them understand that meditation is a positive action that they can take. You can relate it to religious history or theological stories or listen to audio that does it for you with their favorite animals or characters. Here are some ideas for exciting meditations.
- A meditation based on a histories of others from your faith heritage
- Meditating for religious holiday purposes
- Watching a show or movie that describes character
- Doing a meditation challenge
It may also be beneficial to reward them with your time and praise as recognition of their meditation or prayer effort. Be careful that this does not turn into ‘paying’ a child to pray or meditate. Items, money, or privileges should not be dangled as carrots for what may turn into insincere behavior. The most prized possession a child can own is your attention.
Give Them Time to Understand the Process
Meditation commonly brings up different questions even in adults. Meditative prayer also does this with children, and they may find themselves either needing time to process the experience on their own or even reaching out to you to help them understand what they are experiencing.
If this occurs, make sure you talk to them about what comes up when they pray or meditate. Make sure you let them know that it is okay to not fully understand; however, they will grasp it in time. You may also want to encourage meditating as a form of character evaluation to improve their development.
A good idea to help them do this is to allow them to keep a journal where they write down their schedule, questions, and observations. You can either allow them to keep this journal private, or you can go over it with them once a week as a small check-in to make sure they are happy and healthy.
To learn more about keeping a journal and its benefits, take a look at my wife’s article on diary templates and types.
What Can Meditation Do for Your Child?
Unless you have previously been exposed to meditation, you may wonder what the benefits actually are. Although meditation is a relatively simple process, many health benefits can improve the child’s attitude and idea towards the martial arts, their character, their family, and life in general.
Some of the most beneficial aspects for your child include:
- Overall reduced stress and anxiety
- Enhances ability to focus
- Increased mental and physical strength
- Improved decision making and patience
- Better quality sleep and relaxation
For many children, they may not be as concerned with reducing anxiety as they should be. While they may not care about the health benefits, as a parent, you are responsible for giving your child the best quality of life they can have.
As a caution, I would like to reiterate my point about the foundational principles of meditation. It is fundamentally a religious practice. If you would like to read more about the adverse effects research has shown when extracting meditation out of its original purpose, see my article here about meditation and prayer.
How Early Should a Child Begin Meditating?
Since meditation can be either an intense experience or a casual exercise, you may be wondering how early is too early when it comes to helping your child understand. While it certainly depends on your child’s development, some martial arts programs may even have them practicing meditation in the very beginning.
For this reason, you should make sure if the practice is incorporated into your child’s class and instruct your child in its purpose. It should not be left up to the instructor to dictate what your child focuses on or how they practice meditation.
It is not uncommon for toddlers to be exposed to meditation. There are some instructors that specialize in younger children, but at this age it is usually left up primarily to parents to direct them in this area.
Meditation is usually best introduced after the age of 3 to 4, depending on the child. Children can begin to pay attention to their surroundings and stories, which is ideal for prayerful and contemplative meditations.
As your child progresses in their martial arts training, they are going to be introduced to more and more meditation techniques, even if these are not in the context of full meditation.
Although the majority of these your child may never see until higher level classes, it is always good to be aware of them so that you can decide what kind of meditation techniques to tell them about.
Here are some of the most popular meditation techniques used in martial arts.
- Controlled Breathing
- Disciplined Meditation
- The Japanese combative ideal of “No Mind”
Easiest Meditation Techniques for a Child to Learn:
Out of the several types of meditation listed earlier, here I will outline some simple beginnings for two of the main religious forms of meditation. For more information, refer to a religious leader of your particular faith tradition.
There are several types of Catholic meditative prayers and contemplative spiritual exercises. Here are three of the main types:
The Rosary is a meditative collection of prayers said while varying stages of the Gospel stories are contemplated.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet for example is a prayer that Saint Faustina was given in 1935. There is also a connected image of Christ known as the Devine Mercy image which is the object of meditation.
This prayer is a meditative prayer that is prayed at the same time each day for nine consecutive days, or once per hour for nine hours on one day. There are pre-defined prayers and the intention for the prayer sometimes determines which is used.
If you are not sure where to start with Buddhist meditation, here are some of the basic techniques.
The easiest meditation to do with your child is to either create or follow a guided meditation. These allow the child to go into a fantasy world in a way. During a guided meditation, they can visualize in their mind and have full control of their body. These are also easy to do since they are guided, and you just follow instructions.
Balloon Breathing: An Easy Metaphor for Kids
Most children love balloons which makes this a popular meditation technique for children. Have them imagine they are holding an empty balloon in front of them. Have them breathe in deeply, and exhale through the mouth up to five times. Then, tell them to imagine they are filling the balloon with air as they exhale.
The visual and special metaphor is a key part of why this is so easy for kids to learn, and guided breathing is something that they can use to help their anxiety and focus the rest of their life.
Use Mantras and Chants in Morning and Evening routines
Buddhist or Indian mantras and chants are easy for children to understand. Parents or religious leaders can either create a specific mantra of the day that they can repeat to themselves, or some listen to chants and mantra tracks before bed or before they wake up.
Lastly, a body scan is a simple meditation technique for children. During this meditation, the child will analyze each part of their body. They will be able to talk about how they feel, what they are feeling, and what it means to them.
How to Incorporate Meditation into Your Child’s Life
If your child is just starting out in martial arts, there is a strong chance that they are entirely unaware of meditation right now. Since you know that meditation is sometimes part of advanced martial arts training, it is never too early to expose them to the practice.
By exposing them early, you can make sure they are getting the most out of mediation when it does come up in their lessons and your faith tradition is respected when they participate. By meditating on a regular basis, they are able to have a better focus on tasks in their lives, including their martial arts lessons.
Let’s talk about some ways to incorporate meditation into your child’s life right now.
- Use videos with them to learn the basics of meditation and prayer
- Set aside specific times during the day for meditation
- Look for local meditation religious guides outside of martial arts
- Have them keep a journal to record their feelings and thoughts
Meditation is beneficial for the mind and body, but these are side effects. The primary purpose of meditation is to further faith objectives.
It has also been shown to have a significant impact on reducing behavioral issues and the typical stresses from growing up. Your child will be able to learn how to develop character and control their actions at an early age, which will pay off as they grow.
How to Meditate with Your Child
If you are not sure where to begin with practicing meditation with your child, it is really quite simple. Meditation does not have to be complicated, and it can be as easy as sitting with your child in their room or in the living room for as little as one minute.
Considering that one of the best ways to explain meditation to your child is to practice with them, here is an easy meditation you can do every day.
- Find a quiet place that is comfortable and free of distractions
- Choose a length of time that you and your child will meditate for
- Sit in a comfortable position and focus on your intentions
- Follow the procedure for your chosen method in a short abbreviated form at first
- Don’t place any undue pressure on yourself or your child to be overly formal
- Relax and have fun with it
This is just one meditation technique that the average person can do. Many children benefit from guides, formats, and traditions for meditations, which allows them to follow a story. Great meditations for children can be found on platforms such as Youtube or even blogs.
The Explaining Meditation To Kids Takeaway…
The key to teaching your child meditation is to make sure that you understand it first. If you do not have ample experience teaching meditation, make sure that you educate yourself. You can do this by asking religious leaders in your area or merely doing a quick internet research. Knowing what it is all about can help you know what to tell them.
Meditation can be a part of some martial arts programs, and regular practice can help your child feel more confident both in and out of the classroom. Be careful to not allow your child to be put in a situation that you or they are not comfortable with.
Every children benefit from having an encouraging parent in the home to help them pray or meditate and to understand the benefits of regular meditation.
One of the best things about meditative prayer is that it is rarely too early to start explaining it to your child. Chances are if they are old enough to participate in martial arts classes, they will be able to comprehend the idea behind meditation. Ensure that you are encouraging them to practice regularly and make it fun for them to enjoy the process.
If you ever find yourself struggling to explain meditation to your child, make sure you follow these steps. You should also never be afraid to ask for help from those more knowledgeable or even to use online resources.