Loving-kindness meditation is the practice of sending well-wishes towards yourself and other people. It’s effortless. You simply sit with your eyes closed, and imagine sending love and kind thoughts. Loving-kindness meditation offers a beautiful way to connect with your child, has a calming effect, and only takes a few minutes to do.
With this exercise, we focus on teaching the child about the power of their thought and actions on others. We often focus on teaching children how to not make others feel bad, but how often do we spend time teaching them about spreading joy and gratitude to each other, to focus only on spreading the positive.
This exercise will help your child become familiar with the feelings of focusing positive energy on someone that they care about.
The Science of Loving Kindness Meditation
Research demonstrates the incredible power of loving-kindness meditation. Christine Carter, a sociologist and senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Centre, reports that:
“The research shows compellingly that it (loving-kindness meditation) actually puts people on trajectories of growth, leaving them better able to ward off depression and become ever more satisfied with life.”
“Doing a simple loving-kindness meditation can make us feel less isolated and more connected to those around us: one study showed that a SINGLE SEVEN MINUTE loving-kindness meditation made people feel more connected to and positive about both loved ones and total strangers, and more accepting of themselves.”
How about that? Are you excited to try it out?
Here’s the exercise:
Mindfulness For Children: Loving-Kindness Meditation – Sending Kind Thoughts
Purpose: Kindness, Compassion, Positivity, Connection
Best for: Ages 4+
What you need: Nothing
Ask your child to pick someone in their life that they love, someone that makes them smile. You can begin by talking with your child a little bit about this person. What is it about this person that makes them happy, what is special about this person? Keep in mind that children experience love without conditions and their choice of person may surprise you, they might even choose a pet rather than a person. This is ok, they are sending loving, compassionate thoughts into the world and this is always a positive thing.
Once your child has opened up about a person close to their heart, make sure they are comfortable. Have your child close their eyes and think about the person they love. Have them bring their hands to their heart and hold them there, imaging that they are giving that person a warm, tight hug.
Help your child picture this person. Maybe talk about what clothes they might be wearing, what they might smell like or any other sensory connection that will help make the image more real for your child.
Say something like “When you close your eyes, I want you to picture Grandma’s (for example) face. Think about how happy it makes her feel when you hold her close to your heart and hug her. Imagine the smile on her face, she is happy and laughing.”
“Now, I want you to picture grandma doing something that you know she loves. It is ok if you need a few minutes to think about this. Just take your time and let me know when you are ready.” Have your child give you an idea of what they are picturing. It can be a simple one or two word description. If, for instance, grandma is in her garden, you can then help your child build the picture with a little guided visualization.
“Grandma is in her garden, the sun is warm and there is a beautiful butterfly on one of her flowers. She smiles, her body is strong and healthy, she is relaxed and very healthy. I want you to picture walking up to grandma, giving her a big hug and sending her kind and loving thoughts. When you send kind and loving thoughts, you begin by filling your own heart up with love, so much love that it almost feels like you might burst. Now take that love in your heart and send it out, as a gift to grandma.”
If your child is old enough to truly understand the intent you can have them visualise saying kind and compassionate statements such as “May you be happy, healthy and strong.” Or “May you be happy and peaceful.” as a way of closing the exercise.
After a few moments of quiet, ask her how it felt to send kind thoughts to that person. Often, a child will comment that she feels happy, calm, relaxed, and wonderful. If there is a strong feeling of happiness, point out that it only took a short time for her to achieve that feeling.
Then, tell her that she is going to continue by sending kind thoughts to herself. For a younger child, begin by trying a self-hug. For that, tell her to use both hands: she should wrap both arms gently around herself for a good self-hug.
Tell her to let her eyes close and send those same thoughts she sent to the other person to herself, feeling the same love and kindness that she shared with someone else: “May I be happy, healthy and strong.” Or “May I be happy and peaceful.”
When ready, ask the child how it felt and what she noticed during the session. How does she feel about herself after doing this practice? How does she feel about the person she sent kind thoughts to?
I hope you get the warm fuzzies, like I often do with this exercise. If you don’t, no problem; try it a few times to get used to sending and receiving kind thoughts. Most of us adults have a hard time receiving compliments, and it can take some practice to cultivate self-kindness.
Here’s a video that shows how to do a short loving-kindness meditation with children.
I hope that your family will enjoy this exercise.
Wishing you many mindful moments,
Chief Mindfulness Ninja @ Blissful Kids
Bedtime Wishes For Loving Kindness
Chris Bergstrom is a bestselling mindfulness author, a leader in the field of mindfulness, the founder of BlissfulKids.com, a blog dedicated to children’s mindfulness, and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also known as “the dad who tried 200+ mindfulness activities” and has taught meditation for more than 15 years.