Every day our children are bombarded with external inputs that can lead to information overload: screentime, the internet, long school days and a hectic activity schedule, just to name a few. Their lives are busy—and, believe it or not, our sweet kiddos can experience stress.

One of the most typical ways for parents to see signs of stress, depression or anxiety manifested is when a child has a hard time falling asleep. Children today in general sleep one hour less per night than they did 25 years ago. Other signs of stress in children include headaches, stomach aches, tics and hyperactivity.

But there is a very effective way to help our children deal with and process stress: meditation. A meditation practice can both help mitigate stress in children and prevent stress from taking hold. It’s also a wonderful way to help children unplug and unwind after a long day, which prepares them for a peaceful night's sleep.

Don't worry—there’s no need to be intimidated, mama! You don’t need to have any experience with meditation yourself in order to be able to help your child get started. Here are six ways to help your kiddo learn the basics and find their inner calm.

1. Children’s yoga classes

If your child likes to move, yoga could be a good way to learn the basics of a meditation practice. In the Western world, our perception is that yoga is mainly a form of exercise, but it originated thousands of years ago for meditation purposes. And now, most yoga classes for children also include time for relaxing and meditation.

How to get started:

Look around to see if there's an outdoor kids' yoga class on offer in your area. If a virtual option is more your speed, try the online lessons from Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube, which combine yoga poses with interactive storytelling for an engaging experience. Join the practice with your child if and when you can, so you both can incorporate the poses more in your everyday routines.

2. Incorporating mindfulness at school or daycare

Mindfulness practices offer children tools to help them calm down their bodies, relax their minds and deal with their thoughts. Mindfulness meditations often focus primarily on breathing and breathwork: Children learn how to turn their attention back to their breath when their thoughts begin to wander. This not only helps children to relax, but also helps them concentrate better in school and other care settings.

And because kids are already in a learning environment in a school or daycare setting, they may be even more open to these new strategies at school than at home.

How to get started:

Ask your child’s teacher if the school discusses and practices mindfulness. If the school doesn’t offer a mindfulness program, start a dialogue with school staff about the many benefits of mindfulness for children, and potential ways to include it in their schedule or curriculum.

3. Deep breathing

Deep breathing is a great technique to teach your child. Breathing helps us self-regulate in many ways. When a child gets nervous, anxious or overwhelmed, deep breathing can help the child return to balance.

By teaching deep breathing at home, you can help your child to remember to tap into this technique at difficult times throughout their day.

How to get started:

Start by focusing on their breath. Talk about where in the body they can feel their breath. In their nose? Throat? Chest? Tummy? Ask them to count while breathing. Breathe in for three seconds, hold your breath for three seconds, breathe out for three seconds and pause for three seconds—until you start again.

When you have practiced this technique for a while, you can make the sequences longer and longer and the breathing deeper and deeper. This technique is very good for both adults and children who cannot fall asleep. Every time your mind wanders—and it will—you can refocus on counting and breathing.

4. Body scanning

Scanning the body is fantastic to teach a child to switch their attention from the busy mind to the tired body.

How to get started:

Have your child lie down and help them relax every muscle by naming all body parts one at a time in a calm, loving voice. Practice deep breathing as you go along. For some children, playing quiet music in the background helps. Imagery helps, too—you can use all kinds of guided visuals to set the scene. For instance, ask your child to imagine that they are lying in a fresh meadow in the summer sun.

Feel free to incorporate massage by gently rubbing oil into their skin. Gentle touch also has a calming effect. Asking observational questions can help your child notice the effects of relaxing the body. For example, ask how it feels to relax their feet. Children’s feet are so busy all day long. Now they are tired. How do tired feet feel? If their feet were a color right now, what color would they be? How do tired feet look?

5. Mantras

You can rehearse saying mantras or affirmations with your child. A mantra designed for your child’s specific challenges in life can be very helpful to your child when repeated over and over again.

How to get started:

By repeating the same sentence you and your child find important, you can also help your child into a meditation. Rehearse the sentence and adjust it so it becomes easy to say. Have your child repeat the sentence with their eyes closed.

Here are some examples...

  • I am in love with life and life loves me.
  • I am always loved and love comes easily to me.
  • My heart is full of love and I love myself.
  • I let go of...
  • I am thankful for...
  • The world is a safe place and I am protected and safe.
  • I have all I need and I will always be able to take care of myself…
  • By body is healthy and my mind is strong.

6. Bedtime meditation

Bedtime meditations are very helpful to calm down the nervous system and decrease stress hormones before sleep. In general, we say that a child can meditate for the number of minutes equivalent to their age. However, if the meditation makes your child relax, it can go on for a longer time and will ease the transition to sleep.

How to get started:

Facilitate a calm, peaceful environment in your child’s bedroom with soft light, gentle music and even aromatherapy. Press play on a Spotify playlist featuring Kira Willey, who writes guided meditation, breathwork and mindfulness songs for kids.