I’m always looking for ways to help my children and some of my ideas reflect my hippie past. I have recently been trying to get my youngest son engaged in meditation. He is a perfectionist and sets very high standards for himself. You may say to yourself, “What a great kid! Why worry?” Well, because he sets such high standards, he often won’t ask for help when he needs it. He feels if he can’t learn based on the classroom structure, then it’s his fault and he should just take what grade he gets. This means that quite often, when he is struggling with a subject, he suffers anxiety attacks. Hence mom’s advice of trying meditation.
By guiding him into meditative techniques, I hope to help him improve his attention span in the classroom and give his some coping tools to manage his emotions. At thirteen, the testosterone roller-coaster has long since left the station. He has always been a passive, gentle child. This sudden contention with aggressive feelings is very confusing for him. He doesn’t understand why he feels this way. He doesn’t want to feel this way. He feels sad and depressed and sometimes frightened when he gets an urge to lash out physically. Even though I explain that this is a normal phase of developing from a child into a man, that is little comfort. He needs some coping tools.
So, with this in mind, together we prepared our own cozy little nook. I wanted him to feel connected to this exercise so I let him choose certain objects that we will incorporate into our meditation time. I have a sleep machine that plays relaxing sounds. He selected the one that sounds like rain. Very soothing, I liked his choice. I had offered him a few short articles on meditation and he wanted a focal object. He chose a beautiful crystal we had brought back with us from a trip to Peru. He placed this in the center of a plush comforter we spread on the floor and scattered pillows around. I need pillows under my knees when I sit cross-legged.
Our first meditation session we sat down and had a gentle, brief chat about being mindful of our emotions in all situations and how our emotions might influence our decisions. We chose a specific emotion that we had recently experienced. His choice was the grief and helplessness he felt as his grandfather slowly died from cancer and had passed away just six months prior.
I was so touched by what he said. He had been stoic and kind throughout everything. He had never complained about how much time we spent at the hospital. He never shied away from any of the unpleasant business that goes hand in hand with caring for someone you love who has been ravaged by a horrible disease. He had seemed to be steady as a rock. When we went to family grief counseling he seemed to be experiencing all of the stages of grief normally and managing as a typical young man would, trying to keep it all repressed and contained.
He told me how things still happen that will remind him of his grandfather and that he will want to cry. He explained how sad and disappointed he is that his grandfather will not see him graduate high school and go to college. He expressed his anger at cancer and his desire to study medicine. I was quite taken aback at my son’s expressiveness for he usually is very quiet. I was also very proud of him for how he was managing such deep, profound grief in such a thoughtful manner.
As he reached the end of what he had to say, I wanted to cry and have a hug-fest but, instead, I remained focused on meditating. I turned on the rainfall, lit a candle and placed it on top of the crystal. We then closed our eyes and relaxed into our sitting positions.
In a quiet, gentle voice I guided my son through some breathing exercises and the clearing of his mind. I instructed him to visualize his discussed emotion as a colored aura encompassing him and how it would expand or contract based on his experiences that might trigger grief. I encouraged him to explore breathing techniques or other ideas in how he might prevent the grief aura from overwhelming him. We did this until the timer on the sound machine turned the rain off fifteen minutes later.
We have been meditating together three or four times weekly for about six months now. He believes he has really benefited from it. He claims his anxiety level about many things is much lower. He feels more confident. He is not afraid of his hormonal mood swings any longer. They still happen but at least now he understands they are normal and he’s no longer afraid he’s going to suddenly become an axe murderer.
Medical research suggests that meditation can be very helpful for children and teenagers to manage aggression, hyperactivity disorders, and anxiety. Some medical journals report that effective meditation can be just as effective as drug therapy in managing these conditions. As a mother, I really don’t need all of those professional reports to know I’m doing the right thing with my son. I see it in his performance at school and I see it in his attitude at home.