Is your child having a hard time falling asleep? Here’s how child meditation can help.

Is your child having a hard time falling asleep? Here's how child meditation can help.

Our children are growing up in a different time age. The digital age is so much faster and louder than what we had to cope with when we were kids.

Now more than ever children are bombarded with impressions, messages, expectations which when coupled with the casualties of modern living, over-scheduling and long school days, can greatly impact on their mental wellbeing. And today sadly more children than ever before suffer with stress, depression, anxiety and sadness.

One hour less sleep.

Sleep, or rather the lack of it, is one of the first indications for parents that something might be off kilter.

Just like adults – or maybe even more – children are just as susceptible to the pitfalls of a stressful day, and more and more lie awake at night, unable to ‘switch off’ and with racing thoughts. Worry is often an overriding factor, and many have a hard time letting go.

In general children today sleep one hour less than we did 25 years ago. Like adults, sleep problems in children tend to have a knock-on effect, often manifesting in irritability and lack of focus at school. And having a child who can’t fall asleep is also very exhausting for parents.

Why children can’t sleep.

The world we show our children is spinning so much faster than the one our parents showed us. It is said that a child today receives as much stimulus in one day, as their great grandparents did in an entire year when they were children. Of course, this is a generalisation but think about it for a moment.

The best way to teach our children how to navigate is to remember to navigate ourselves. The human race is not meant for ongoing activities. We are meant to use energy and then rest to refuel. But we seem to have forgotten about the resting part. Hardly surprising then that so many parents also have trouble sleeping.

We need to equip our children with these resources to enable them to deal with all that society has to throw at them, the constant overload of information and messages, and to help them to recharge.

We can’t stop development and we cannot change society overnight. What we can do however, is teach our children how to navigate in the hasty world they are growing up in. Children really need their sleep and we can teach them methods to calm down and find the peace needed to be able to let go.

How meditation can help.

When my girls were 3 and 6 I started sharing beautiful heart meditations with them and they loved it. And I was so surprised to see how quickly they would fall asleep.

As different as children are, almost every child delights in hearing love and heart energy which many meditations offer. Learning how to turn up their self-love can give children so much comfort that they relax and fall asleep.

A recorded guided meditation can be a good place to start if you are not yourself familiar with meditation. However, I recommend that you always sit with your child and listen along if you decide play a meditation for your child. Your presence is very important. Too often I hear that parents leave the room to go fix something else, while the child is listening to a meditation. The outcome of the meditation if you stay and lie down with your child and relax is so much better. If your older child insists that you leave the room, that would be okay, but a younger child would most likely want you to stay.

How to best guide your child to meditate.

Even better is reading a meditation to your child yourself. Order a book with child meditations or go to your library. When you read the meditation to your child, your energy helps the child a lot and your guidance makes your child feel safe. To your child no voice is sweeter than yours, because it comes along with all that you are and all that you radiate.

If you decide to read a meditation to your child at bedtime, becoming aware of your energy as a parent is crucial. Reading meditations when you can be present, loving, and calm at bedtime, can help your child to find inner peace, love and even self-love. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Pick a time when you feel good, and have the energy to help your child deal with a new method of falling asleep.
  2. Turn off all screens two hours before bedtime, including your own.
  3. Slow down the last hour before reading.
  4. Maybe even give – or let your child take a warm, relaxing bath. Even better – end the bath with a gentle massage with a nice oil.
  5. Stay calm and loving in your energy even if your child has difficulties with the new method. Your energy, mood and way of communicating with your child highly affect how quickly he/she calms down. You can read even begin by reading one of your child’s favorite books, so the new meditation book becomes an add-on.
  6. Lay down next to your child and show him/her you have time to read the book in a calm and cosy way. Snuggle up. And if you fall asleep yourself, that might be just what you need! Listen to what your body is telling you.
  7. Stay calm, loving even if your child doesn’t want to close his eyes or moves around. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. When children begin to breathe and shift their attention to their body, which many guided meditations will teach them, it is naturally that they want to move around a bit. For some kids closing their eyes can be a bit of a challenge. Just ask them to stare at a specific spot in the room until they are ready to close their eyes. Invite them gently into the meditation.
  8. Speak in a calm, loving voice and remember to take pauses.
  9. In the days after the meditation you can talk to your child about the experience. Listen to your child – there is a lot to learn.
  10. Encourage your child to draw – or write about the images or feelings he/she sees or experiences during meditation.

Enjoy the ride when meditating with your child. My experience is that many children have a much easier time meditating to their hearts than adults. And in many ways children can help parents turn up the love for themselves as well.

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ 

‘The Children’s Meditations in My Heart’

Seeing the positive effect my stories with meditation had on my own children made me write down the meditations for friends who were wondering what my secret was. When the meditations also helped my friends’ children to sleep, I decided to turn the meditations into a book, which is now sold in 14 countries worldwide, and helping thousands of children to fall asleep. The book has also proven helpful for many children with special needs.

The Danish bedtime meditation book “The Children’s Meditations In my Heart” can be ordered as a PDF, kindle version and/or hardcover. Find more details at www.roomforreflection.com


About the Author: Gitte Winter

Gitte Winter, is a Danish writer, life coach, energy mentor, mindfulness instructor and lightworker (Roomforreflection.com). She is on a mission to help parents help their children to thrive through child meditation. Gitte helps parents become aware of their energy and what they radiate and teach parents to always parent themselves first before they parent their children. Gitte is also the founder of Momo Academy (www.momo-academy.com) with a mission to help Danish schools offer mindfulness to the pupils as part of their education. She also coaches parents and do workshops. Check out the blog at Room for Reflection and Facebook for the latest news on child meditation and mindfulness.

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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