Benefits of Meditation for Children
One thing that grownups are perpetually concerned about in children is attention. Studies have shown the effects of meditation on attention in adults with and without ADD/ADHD, and there’s some evidence that it can help children focus, too. One 2004 study found that children with ADHD who learned meditation with their parents twice weekly in a clinic setting, and kept practicing at home, had better concentration at school, among other benefits.
- A bump in attendance and grades in school
Anecdotal evidence, and some scientific evidence, suggests that meditation in schools may help improve the things that school officials like to see – grades and attendance. One school district in California expanded its school day by half an hour in some of its “high-risk” schools, to build meditation into the day. And with good results: The schools have reported better attendance and grades, fewer suspensions, and generally happier and less aggressive children. And research has supported this: For instance, one study found that mindfulness helped children during high-stakes testing, by reducing their anxiety and boosting working memory.
- A reprieve from outside trauma
A lot of children are dealing with major stressors at home, either in the form of chronic stress or outright trauma. As a number of experts has pointed out, when children are living with really bad situations outside of school, their bodies and minds are so overwrought as a result, that it’s virtually impossible for them to sit in class and learn. So intervention is almost a requisite, both from an academic point of view, and an ethical one. Meditation and mindfulness have been shown to help children who are dealing with stressors.
For children who aren’t dealing with outright trauma, meditation has been thought to benefit overall mental health in children, as it’s been shown to in adults, but this research is more in its infancy. Another study found that an afterschool program consisting of yoga and meditation helped children feel happier and more relaxed. And yoga itself has been shown to help reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue in children, compared to physical education alone.
- Self-awareness and self-regulation
Mindfulness is intimately connected to self-awareness (it’s almost the definition of it), and this extends naturally to self-regulation. That is, if you learn to be more aware of your thought processes and reactions in the present moment, it follows that you would be more in charge of your emotions and behaviors. Children, who are just learning to manage their own internal stuff, can benefit hugely from some instruction on how to do this, rather than having to stumble through it on their own (and most adults would probably say they wish they’d had some sort of training in it as children).
- Social-emotional development
One thing that meditation seems to do is to inspire kindness to others, and there’s definitely some evidence here. Children who practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness build skills of attention, self awareness, self management leading to more responsible decision making and prosocial behavior. It’s no surprise that studies show that these children are, in general, happier, more resilient children. They have a solid sense of self and are more connected to, and respectful of, others and the world around them. The result? Kinder, more compassionate children!”