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Meditation Helps Kids Chill Out, Reduce Impulsivity

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  • medit8ionsociety
    By LIZ NEPORENT (@lizzyfit) May 21, 2013 http://abcnews.go.com/Health/young-brains-benefit-meditation/story?id=19217997#.UZ0gMEp-mrA The words zen and
    Message 1 of 1 , May 22, 2013
      By LIZ NEPORENT (@lizzyfit)
      May 21, 2013

      The words "zen" and "child" don't exactly go together,
      but that hasn't stopped a growing number of parents from
      "ohm schooling" their kids in the art of yoga, meditation
      and relaxation.

      Andrew Kelly of Boston said he and his 10-year-old son,
      Hayden, have been meditating together since Hayden was
      7 years old. Each morning before school, father and son
      sit on cushions, legs crossed, eyes closed, quietly
      monitoring the rise and fall of their chests as they breathe.

      "We do this for exactly 12 minutes because 12 is his
      favorite number," Kelly explained.

      Kelly said they practice "mindfulness" -- a series of
      meditation techniques that slow the mind and fix attention
      on the present. The brain chills out, slows down and
      focuses on what is happening at the moment.

      Teaching meditation to children has attracted some
      high-profile advocates. Perhaps the highest-profile
      children's meditation advocate is actress Goldie Hawn,
      whose MindUp program has shown more than 150,000 children
      worldwide how to find their brain's happy place.

      "We teach the kids to take brain breaks, because every
      brain needs a break, and because we know that meditation
      builds a stronger brain," Hawn told ABCNews.com "We start
      them on these mindfulness and relaxation techniques very
      young so they can carry them their entire lives."

      Hawn said she has spent the past 10 years studying how
      the brain works and consulting with neurologists and
      psychologists to create her program. For the stressed-out
      kids she can't reach directly, she's written a guidebook,
      "10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children -- and Ourselves
      -- the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and
      Anxiety for Healthier, Happy Lives," which takes parents
      and educators through a step-by-step meditation practice
      suitable for kids of all ages.

      Film director David Lynch started a foundation eight years
      ago to provide scholarships for school-age children all
      over the world to study transcendental meditation.

      And Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, championed "The Skills for Life"
      program that teaches deep breathing exercises, meditation
      and problem solving as part of the elementary school
      curriculum in several Ohio school districts.

      Studies seem to emphasize the benefits of meditation.
      A University of California, Los Angeles study found
      second- and third-graders who practiced "mindful"
      meditation techniques for 30 minutes twice a week for
      eight weeks had improved behavior and scored higher on
      tests requiring memory, attention and focus than the

      Another study of more than 3,000 children in the San
      Francisco Unified School District found a dramatic
      improvement in math test scores and overall academic
      performance among students who practiced transcendental
      meditation, a form of mediation that promotes relaxation
      and "an awakening" of the mind. The study also found a
      decrease in student suspensions, expulsions and dropout rates.

      And other recent studies have demonstrated the ability
      of "mindfulness" techniques, especially those used in meditation,
      yoga and tai chi, to reduce impulsiveness, control emotions
      and ease stress.

      Children today are certainly more stressed out than their
      parents likely realize. One in five children said they
      worried a lot or a great deal about things going on in
      their lives, and more than 30 percent admitted to such
      stress-related symptoms as difficulty sleeping, according
      to the American Psychological Association's annual Stress
      in America report. Yet, the same report found that only 8
      percent of parents were aware that their children experienced
      any stress at all.

      Despite some high-profile Hollywood interest, kids meditation
      is mainly a grassroots movement that is slowly gaining a
      toehold in schools, small studios and homes across the

      Kelly, the Boston father who has meditated with his son
      for three years, founded a children's meditation program
      called Boston Buddha four years ago and began teaching
      "mindfulness" techniques to K-5 students in the Milton,
      Mass., School District.

      His youngest students -- second-graders and below --
      practice a series of exercises that focus on the five senses.
      This, he said, helps them learn how the sound of a pencil
      tapping, the smell of pizza or the sight of a classmate
      fidgeting can distract them.

      "The magic moment where they understand mindfulness is
      when they can catch themselves not paying attention.
      That's their chance to control their impulsivity. It helps
      them stop themselves from doing things like jumping on the
      couch or whacking their younger brother," Kelly said.

      For parents who can't find a nearby program or, like Kelly,
      is willing to teach meditation techniques to their children themselves, there are plenty of resources.

      The Teach Children Meditation Facebook fan page advises
      parents on how to teach their kids to meditate. There are
      also dozens of podcasts, audio recordings and websites
      dedicated to children's meditation.

      And, of course, there's even an app for meditation: The Smiling
      Mind website and free smartphone app have downloadable programs
      that lead children as young as 7 through a mindfulness
      meditation practice.
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