Can Meditating Help Your Toddler?
By Stephanie Gatschet
I first met Stephanie when she was hired to kill me… on TV. We eventually both moved to California for our roles on “All My Children,” an ABC soap opera. We were pretty inseparable. We drank a lot of “Two-Buck Chuck,” took a hundred yoga classes and debated over East coast and West coast rappers. While our journeys have been different we’ve walked through life at a similar pace. We found our partners around the same time and embarked on motherhood close in step. I love that our lives have taken us both down the path of wellness. We’ve come so far from our Coca-Cola vs Mountain Dew debates. There are so many aspects I admire Stephanie for, but what I find especially inspiring is how she incorporates meditation into parenting. I thought it would be fitting for her to share some of her story and the benefits of meditation for children.
I found meditation almost ten years ago through a friend and a Buddhist center that offered classes, retreats, and a strong sense of community. My teachers made meditation casual, practical and fun, giving me a deep sense of happiness even in tumultuous times. Early into motherhood, I found myself tired, frustrated and feeling helpless. I meditated on patience when I felt impatient and on compassion when my daughter cried nonstop. Experiencing the benefits of meditation fueled my desire to share my practice with her. I knew meditation would help her feel rooted in peace.
Her “practice” so far has been simple. I don’t expect my three-year-old, or myself most days, to sit and formally meditate. It’s not always realistic. However, learning to use our daily experiences to practice feeling more peace amid the constant chaos is the new joy that I’ve found in meditation. If I can arm my daughter with the patience, love and compassion that come from her own personal practice, then I will have done my job. I believe it’s all very possible, and it starts with just one deep breath. I’ve listed below three benefits I’ve found from meditating with my child:
1. Meditation and mindfulness exercises can help children focus and be present in the moment. Kids are often exposed to busy, fast-paced environments or TV that can be overstimulating for their developing brains; Two minutes of deep breathing or engaging in a mindfulness activity can, if practiced regularly, create important habits. The brain remembers these skills and can tap into them later, giving kids an amazing tool for accessing a more calm, focused energy when they need it.
2. Meditation allows children to press the “pause” button. It helps them act less impulsively and gives them an opportunity to get in touch with their emotions, needs and even their physical state. Meditation is a chance for your child to “check in” internally. Feeling in tune and in power of their physical and emotional state can give them a great sense of confidence.
3. Meditation is an incredible “time out” alternative. Kids that are upset, angry or melting down often stir up a sense of anger or helplessness in their frustrated parents. In these moments, we often think it’s best, or easiest, to put our child in the corner (as punishment, or simply to put a stop to their behavior). Try putting a cushion or a firm pillow somewhere in the house, removed from distractions like toys or TV. Make this a safe, happy place for them to practice their deep breaths and happy visualizations. Inviting them to their cushion for five minutes will be a far more effective tool for redirecting their meltdowns or inappropriate behaviors.
The family that meditates together is happier!
Meditating with your child is a great way to connect as a family, set a positive example and disengage from the outside distractions of work, phones, TV and to-dos.
Stephanie Gatschet has been immersed in the wellness world for several years, working for various integrative and functional medicine doctors, practicing and teaching meditation, and developing a passion for holistic nutrition. She studied holistic health at the Natural Healing Institute in Encinitas, CA, and is currently completing a Masters of Science in Integrative Nutrition through the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She lives in San Diego with her partner and their daughter, Vela. Visit her site to learn more.