instructions and recommendations
A Note From Annaka
Welcome to my guided meditations for children. All my recordings are designed for children ages six to ten, but the instructions are the same I would give to older children, teens, and beginner-level adults, so these recordings can be used by them as well. Before you share these guided meditations with children, please review the information below. I hope you and your children enjoy them!
Listen With your child
It’s important for children (especially children under the age of nine) to listen to a new guided meditation with an adult, at least the first few times. I also recommend following each meditation session with some simple questions: How did you feel when we were doing that meditation? What part did you like best? Is there anything you didn’t like about it? Continue to ask questions like these each time to get a sense of how your child is responding to the practice.
If the meditations resonate with your child or your students, they can use them on their own after they’ve become comfortable doing them with you. After some time, children may also choose to practice meditation without the recordings. If they continue to practice on their own—with or without the guided meditations—I recommend that you still continue to check in with them, asking questions about how it’s going.
Use Speakers, Not Headphones
We are helping children learn to be present in their environment, and headphones can cause them to feel closed off from their surroundings, so it’s preferable that they listen through a speaker. However, there are definitely exceptions to this—especially in situations with a lot of distractions—and you’ll need to be the judge of whether headphones are a better choice.
Meditating with eyes open is okay!
Children should never be pressured into closing their eyes if they’re not comfortable doing so. Many people have a preconceived idea that our eyes should be closed when we meditate, but in all my recorded meditations, I give the option of eyes open or closed. Neither one is necessarily more effective, and this is true for both children and adults (in my own practice, I meditate with my eyes open about half the time). Our experiences can be different with eyes closed versus open, so it’s great if children feel comfortable trying both.
Meditation should not be mandatory
Meditation practice cannot be treated like homework or music practice, for two important reasons. First, it’s an entirely internal experience, so children need to be self-motivated and interested if they are to be successful. Second, requiring that a child practice meditation is essentially useless, because you can’t control someone else’s internal life—nor can you have direct evidence of it. Children can sit quietly for five minutes without meditating at all, and you won’t necessarily know what type of experience they are having. The best you can do is offer circumstances in which a child can discover the benefits from experience. It’s extremely important that children’s interest lead them and guide the amount of time they spend practicing meditation. They may want to practice one day and not the next, or they may lose interest for weeks or months at a time. As difficult as this may be for parents, my strong recommendation is that you offer your support and gently suggest that they try meditation but never require them to do so, especially when you encounter resistance.
Mindfulness is not about calming down
Although meditation often does calm us (and we often want children to calm down!), it’s important to remember that the goal of mindfulness meditation is simply to be aware of whatever one is feeling in the present moment. We want to provide the “space” for children to feel restless, anxious, or excited—and to become aware of their feelings. Paradoxically, recognizing and accepting uncomfortable feelings usually results in greater calm. But trying to calm down is not the point, and it can actually cause anxiety and be counterproductive. The intention should be to accept the present moment as it is, including uncomfortable feelings. When children feel restless, for example, we hope they can respond by thinking something like: It’s really hard to sit still right now, and that’s OK. Everyone feels this way sometimes. I can become curious about how I feel, take a breath, notice the energy and sensations in my body, listen to sounds, and be OK.
Your practice comes first
In the long term, I believe the most important thing you can do to maintain a child’s interest in meditation is to model it. I recommend letting your children witness, or at least be aware of, your regular practice. From time to time, talk about how meditation benefits you or what you find interesting about it—especially when it’s relevant to something that comes up in your lives. You can also try meditating for a few minutes in a room where your children are engaged in another activity. Set a timer and let them know that you’re going to sit and meditate for five minutes while they play or read. Every once in a while, they might surprise you by asking questions about what you’re doing—or even sit down and join you! But whether or not they do, seeing the adults in their lives practicing meditation has a great impact on children.