My 11-year old daughter just finished her third 5K running race of the year.
She didn’t train. In fact, she forgot she was registered until the day before. Even still, she finished near the top 10 overall. But for her, it wasn’t about being competitive. She ran because her grandfather ran, too. He set the example, and she wanted to follow. Many articles tout the benefits of exercising with children—or at the very least, in modeling the behavior. Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published a study in 2014 that showed a strong association between the activity level of mothers and their young children. Simply put, active mothers can lead to active preschoolers. What’s true for physical health can be true for mental health as well. Making time to meditate with children in the house can be difficult. My own instinct was to find a way to be alone, to set up a special place, to schedule “me time” to meditate. In the end, these just became barriers to accomplishing my goal. And for what? When research and logic suggests that children model themselves after their parents, why should I exclude them?
I changed my perspective. Rather than hide away, I explained what I was doing and why to my children. We tried a couple breathing exercises together. They closed their eyes and promptly began to giggle. Sure, the meditation was not effective, but they were associating it with something positive. And that’s really the goal. What started as an activity for me, alone, became a part of our family dynamic. No one else meditates on schedule, but we talk about it. That can be enough. My family respects the 10, 15, or 20 minutes I need each day because I brought them into the process. As an added bonus, I’ve also found myself reflecting more during the day, and learning. After all, little ones embody some of the best elements of mindfulness. They’re full of confidence and wonder and a firm grounding in the present. I now watch them for inspiration, to get back to their state of mind. By sharing the experience, the benefits of meditation extend beyond me. My children learn from me, and I from them. On that note, I’d better head out for a run.