Let’s be honest: when it comes to bedtime, even the most behaved children protest. If you’re dealing with a particularly fussy child at night, you might want to consider helping them to unwind and relax by introducing a pre-bedtime meditation routine.
Meditation has been shown to improve anxiety, depression, school performance, and behavior problems in kids. When you tack it on at night, you’re providing the added benefit of improving their relaxation response as well as possibly increasing melatonin (the sleep hormone) which will help your little ones drift off to dreamland sooner.
“Teaching and practicing meditation with your children is actually easier than you think,” says Rebecca Gitana, a transformational guide and home healer who teaches meditation and breathwork to children. “Sure, kids can be fussy or get easily distracted but that is kind of the point — to get your children in the practice of bringing themselves back to themselves. It also empowers them to observe their energy and needs.”
Plus, when you make it a joint activity, you create the opportunity to bond further with your kid while doing something that’s healthy for both of you. However, as Gitana points out, “It’s important to note that you don’t have to be perfect at meditating either. Learn with your children and practice the beginning principles discovered with them together.”
If you need help establishing a pre-bedtime routine, we’ve come up with some guidelines below.
First, set the scene
If your kid just had some screentime or read a chapter of their favorite book, they might not be in the most “zen” mood to meditate. Which is why you should try to bring them to a calmer state before your meditation.
“My friend, shiatsu practitioner Sam Berlind, shared a wonderful technique with me. It’s about making a good connection with your child and calming down together,” Tara Stiles, yoga expert and author of Clean Mind, Clean Body: A 28-Day Plan for Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Self-Care, tells SheKnows. “First if you can, bring the little one to a place without distractions. Turn off any screens or move away from a noisy space. Sit down together and press your thumb gently into the center of their palm and take some big deep breaths.”
This action stimulates the shiatsu point for calming, and the deep breaths will further relax both of you. “While you’re making contact, make sure to come down to the level physically of the child,” says Stiles. “It’s a good practice for overall health for your body to crawl down and up from the ground – and it’s good for creating a connection with children. Come to them so you can relate well.”
Or shake it out!
However every kid is different. If your child isn’t one to sit still, that’s okay too. Gitana starts her meditation practice by telling the children to “shake it out.”
“Be silly with them and flail, wiggle, jump, all of it,” she says. “Then ask your child to select their favorite crystal, rock, seashell, plant, or stuffed animal. Having an ally while they meditate can be very helpful.”
She also recommends asking them if they want to sit or lie down, and letting them know they can shift from either position as they desire. “Giving them freedom will help them stay engaged in meditation,” she says.
Explain to them what meditation is
Gitana says it’s key to let kids know that meditating is not about sitting still and closing your eyes.
“Instead meditating is how we listen to ourselves and clear our minds. Tell them, ‘It is a time when you can let go of your worries, it is a time when you can let go of your worries’, and kids worry more than we think. They deal with the pressures of the world, with little context and no agency over what happens to them, and we think we are the ones who are stressed out!”
Ease into the practice
Now, according to Gitana, you would guide them towards their breath.
“You can start with the Ocean’s Breath, which is a gentle breath in and out of the nose. Tell them that to listen to their breath for they can hear the sounds of the ocean’s waves. How magical. Join them.”
You can do some movement if they are fidgety such as Child’s pose or cat & cow. Gitana also suggests telling your little to move or stretch in any way that feels good to them.
Now, guide them to the next breath. This time breathing in through the nose and out of the mouth making a “hahhhhhh” sound.
“Here you can guide them to let go off any stress or worry that is inside,” says Gitana. “When it feels right you can even ask them to share what they let just let go of. You can then guide them towards hugging themselves, sending love to all the places inside that need it.”
The practice needn’t be long. For really fidgety kids, Gitana recommends five minutes or “for a minute for every year they have been on planet Earth.”
Monkey see, monkey do
If you’re unfamiliar with meditating yourself, Stiles suggests that you might want to further your own practice first to become more comfortable and to show your kids how “easy” it is.
“With kids and with anyone, mediation works well if you show how to do it as you do it yourself,” says Stiles. “Make it a project together, so both of you become the leader. If you are able to meditate alone with the little ones watching, they might also join in. I would advise not to force anyone to join you. Let it be their idea by being excited by watching you. It’s great to be a good example, of course, and for children to see their parents being good to themselves. What a beautiful lifelong lesson in self-care!”
Ultimately developing a pre-bedtime meditation practice together is healthy for both of you to help balance stress and strengthen their relationship to you as their sounding board.
“Having a shared meditation practice can help children become more focused and stronger at processing their emotions,” says Gitana. “It is also another great way to normalize self care and conscious familial communication. You may be surprised when your child asks for a meditational moment when stressed or when they want to connect with you.”
Before you go, here’s the best and most affordable apps to help take care of your mental health: