Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Guided Visualization for Children

About a year ago I decided I wanted to instill mindfulness in my children. I scoured the internet for resources and meditations I could read to them and came up mostly empty handed. I started just creating my own based on their interests, and it was a big hit. We love to do this practice at bedtime, after jammies are on and teeth are brushed. I tuck them in, and cue them to relax their body with simple phrases they can understand such as "allow your body to really sink into your bed," "feel heavy but safe in your bed", "let your arms and legs fall where they're comfortable." Then I read or create a simple meditation, anywhere from 1-3 minutes at this stage (my kids are 4 and 6. My 18 month old has yet to experience this type of mindfulness).
I wanted to create a sample guided meditation for you to use on your own children. Keep in mind, it's unlikely they remain still or even quiet for the duration of the meditation, and that's ok. Think about the first time you sat in stillness (or if you haven't yet - try it. Try sitting for 5 minutes while working on silencing your thoughts. It's HARD!). The natural instinct when we are outside our comfort zone is to move. And giggle. And distract ourselves. Kids are no different. But with practice, it gets easier for them to remain still and just BE. Unfortunately kids (and adults!) these days have no idea how to just sit with themselves and are continually looking for distractions in the form of movement or noise to cope with that discomfort. It's all about practice. And stillness for children is vital - for managing behaviour and impulse, for developing confidence, improving attention and focus, promoting empathy and compassion (for others and self!), reducing stress...just to name a few of the multitude of health benefits vital for well being.

The Let Go Balloon
Lie back with your eyes closed. Let your body sink into the ground (bed, etc). Let your legs rest as they are, allowing the feet to roll where they want. Place your hands on your belly and take a few deep breaths. Every time you take a breath in (demonstrate for them), feel your belly get bigger as it fills with fresh clean air.

Imagine you are blowing up a balloon with your breath. This balloon can be any colour you'd like. Maybe it's red. Or yellow. Maybe it's blue or green. Maybe it has polka dots on it, or stripes. Or animals or words. It can be small like a mouse, or huge like an elephant or medium sized like a melon. It is your balloon, create it however you would like.
Now, exhale through your nose (pause to demonstrate), slowly letting all the air out of this balloon. Feel your belly lower down, becoming smaller as all the air escapes.

Breathe in again through your nose, feeling your belly expand and once again seeing your balloon in front of you. Maybe it has changed and looks different. Maybe the size has changed. Or the shape. Or the colours. Maybe it's the same balloon you blew up before.

Take some deep slow breaths in and out as you continue looking at your balloon. Play with it a bit - it is your balloon, you can change the colours and shape of it all you want. Try painting it into a rainbow perhaps, or add some details to it. You can hold it or gently tap it to keep it up in the air, or just watch it dance around through the sky.

With your balloon in front of you, think of something that has been bothering you. Maybe someone said something not so nice to you. Or maybe you did something that wasn't nice to someone else and you feel badly about it. Whatever is weighing heavy on your heart, think of that. Take that thought and gently breathe it up into your balloon. If any air escapes while you're doing this, take a nice big inhale through your nose and fill up your balloon with some more air.

See your balloon holding your thoughts that have been making you sad or angry or confused.

Now let go of your balloon. It's ok to let go. You can always come back to this space to make another balloon anytime you want to. See your beautiful balloon carrying your sadness up into the bright blue sky. It drifts above the tree branches, floating above the buildings. It gets carried with the wind up toward the fluffy white clouds. It floats, floats, floats so high you can no longer see it. It is gone. Say goodbye to your balloon along with the thoughts and feelings that aren't making you happy. They are no longer yours to carry. You feel lighter and more joyful already.

I always end the meditation by slowly getting them out of it. You might say something like "now take another deep inhale through your nose and let out a loud sigh as you exhale. Start to wiggle your fingers and your toes and open your eyes if you'd like."

Then you can have a debrief if you think they're willing to share with you, or depending on their age, you can provide them a journal to record how they felt before, during and after the meditation, or just leave them with the experience, which is quite powerful in itself. Have fun <3

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