Mindfulness Meditation Helps Singaporean Children Cope with Stress
Ms. Mallika Kripalani, founder and director of The Conscious Zone— a company, based in Singapore, that specializes in bringing mindfulness, acceptance and commitment training, and stress-management solutions into schools, homes, and businesses— is introducing mindfulness to children and adolescents to help them cope with stressful situations both at school and beyond.
Even at a very young age, children can benefit from mindfulness meditation. As Kripalani explains, “If a child knows how to breathe mindfully, it helps him calm down quickly and to break the cycle of anxiety, anger or frustration when he’s having a tantrum, ” adding that many parents enroll their children in her mindfulness workshops to learn how to calm down and focus during examinations or other activities such as sports.
Even though even adults might have difficulties practicing mindfulness, children can to learn it as long as they are engaged in the exercises and learn mindfulness meditation in steps. Young children, for instance, might not be able to sit still or close their eyes, but they can start with a short 30 seconds breathing exercise, where they are asked to pay attention to their breathing, feeling their chest rising and falling and their breath going in and out. “You want to make sure you create a safe space for everyone who’s present. I’ve had kids in my class who don’t want to close their eyes or who need to fidget or move a little. It takes time,” says Ms. Kripalani. (The Straits Times)
For older children, Ms. Kripalani explains she tries to get their interest or attention first: “the first thing to do is engage the children. We get them interested by giving them real-life examples, such as actor Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine in the X-Men movies. He meditates regularly. We keep it fun for the children with stories, anecdotes, jokes and other activities.” (The Straits Times)
Encouraged by his mother, who also practices meditation, nine-year-old Gautam Venkatraman, a student at an international school in Singapore, started practicing meditation at age seven, when he took part in a mindfulness workshop with his 13-year-old sister, Sashwika. At first, he like many other children, he had trouble keeping his eyes closed during the meditation sessions: “"I kept blinking or opening my eyes. Now, I can do five minutes straight," he proudly announces. (The Straits Times)
Gautam mentions that two years later, mediation has helped him a lot. When he plays tennis for instance, he is aware of the negative thoughts that arise in his mind and is able to switch them to more positive thoughts by taking a mental break to calm and focus himself. “A lot of times, in tennis, when you’re losing, you have to calm down and get back into the game. I don’t think about the points lost. I think ahead,” says Venkatraman. (The Straits Times)
The siblings Leon, nine, and Isabel Loh, seven, explained that practicing meditation has help them learn how to cope with anxious or frustrating situations. As Isabel explained, “You don’t feel so stressed if your friend fights with you. You take three breaths and you know you shouldn’t say anything bad back to her.” (The Straits Times)
Ten-year-old Ho Jon Ye, mentioned that mediation helps him deal wit the anxiety and stress of examinations at school: “I think it’s quite useful in school, before sitting an exam and whenever I get teased, to stop myself from crying or arguing. I can breathe consciously and walk away. But it doesn’t work all the time.” (The Straits Times)
Mindfulness is an ancient technique used in many meditative religious traditions, including Buddhism, which is now very popular among modern physiologists, neurologists, and physicians. Many studies have asserted that mindfulness offers numerous benefits, such as stress reduction, deep relaxation, and more positive states of mind.
Helping children cope with stress: Meditate...and breathe (The Straits Times)
Mallika Kripalani (The Conscious Zone)
The Conscious Zone
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