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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For way too long, there’s been an idea that discipline has to make kids feel bad if it’s going to steer them away from bad choices. But my gosh we’ve been so wrong. 

The idea is a hangover from behaviourism, which built its ideas on studies done with animals. When they made animals scared of something, the animal stopped being drawn to that thing. It’s where the idea of punishment comes from - if we punish kids, they’ll feel scared or bad, and they’ll stop doing that thing. Sounds reasonable - except children aren’t animals. 

The big difference is that children have a frontal cortex (thinking brain) which animals and other mammals don’t have. 

All mammals have a feeling brain so they, like us, feel sad, scared, happy - but unlike us, they don’t feel shame. The reason animals stop doing things that make them feel bad is because on a primitive, instinctive level, that thing becomes associated with pain - so they stay away. There’s no deliberate decision making there. It’s raw instinct. 

With a thinking brain though, comes incredibly sophisticated capacities for complex emotions (shame), thinking about the past (learning, regret, guilt), the future (planning, anxiety), and developing theories about why things happen. When children are shamed, their theories can too easily build around ‘I get into trouble because I’m bad.’ 

Children don’t need to feel bad to do better. They do better when they know better, and when they feel calm and safe enough in their bodies to access their thinking brain. 

For this, they need our influence, but we won’t have that if they are in deep shame. Shame drives an internal collapse - a withdrawal from themselves, the world and us. For sure it might look like compliance, which is why the heady seduction with its powers - but we lose influence. We can’t teach them ways to do better when they are thinking the thing that has to change is who they are. They can change what they do - they can’t change who they are. 

Teaching (‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘How can you put this right?’) and modelling rather than punishing or shaming, is the best way to grow beautiful little humans into beautiful big ones.

#parenting
Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting

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