Mindfulness Practice & Reiki with Young Children
I have many Reiki students who have young children (pre-school age to early years of primary) and after the course they are keen but not sure how to integrate the learnings of meditation and hands on healing into their family home life and ask me for ideas. I have held off popping some of these ideas into a blog post as I generally ask people share a little about what their children like doing and what they do as a family and then suggest ways to bring it into their day naturally. So as you read, please do this, think about your family, what you love doing together or would like to do more of and use these ideas below as stepping stones for what can work for you. And also remember the old saying "it's quality time not the length of time that counts".
In principle it is fun to meditate with children... And as you will know from my classes, it always begins with us, becoming more balanced and centred, that's why making time for your own practice is vital. Below are some activities I have found really lovely to do with my nieces and friends children as well as what parents have shared with me that has worked for them. I have also studied with Lorraine, the author of Connected kids and way way back I was a primary teacher. That latter experience taught me much about children and their amazing ability to learn and through how they learn they also teach so much it is a blessing to be with them. I find children are naturally already in the 'now' and tend to learn the opposite from us.
Children can be more open and thus sensitive to energy work. They have not built up as many 'worries' and so forth as many adults. A treatment with a child therefore is often much shorter, perhaps 5 to 20 minutes and can involve movement or even a story depending on their age that helps them relax and connect in with themselves. Mindful activities can be what people find valuable with children rather than thinking of Reiki treatments, however I have examples of both for you to explore.
The headings below are only a guide. All the activities go together. The headings help see there are different key focuses you can use while incorporating mindfulness practice and how you can start where the interest for you and the child feels most inviting or where you often already explore.
A Reiki Treatment Example
When my 5 year old niece came into my new centre she saw the massage table and promptly took off her shoes, climbed up and laid down and said "can I try it out what you do here Aunty Deb?" Children are often more intuitive and direct and let you know if they would like a treatment, just like my niece, did that day and has done since. She is 5 years old, so I told her what I was doing as I was performing the treatment, I was connecting to the deep earth, and to the stars in the sky and universe and also to all the love in the world and in my heart and I asked her to imagine that she was a great bright light and that her and I were both great lights and we just shining brightly....and while I went on with a story I placed my hands on her and also moved my hands down her arms and down her legs, more like what a gentle breeze would be like. That is what felt right for her at the time. And in some ways makes sense as children's energy may be moving more freely so my hand movements were in tune with her. Like an adult treatment, listen to what the child needs not what your mind thinks they need. It is so important to develop the intuitive. And the treatment went for only about 5 minutes and we got up and did some sound meditation together (see below). This can be a lovely end to the day before sleep too. Thinking of the movements becoming slower, your voice softer and all the energy going down to the hara.
Other things I enjoy doing are movement exercises like Qi Gong or using the book, Mindful Movements by Thich Nhat Hanh. Also food mindfulness and mandala colouring in are great to do. And in truth I get as much from doing these activities as the children. I bring my energy and awareness to each action and it becomes a lovely way to extend my own practice. Children's yoga is wonderful and you can do all sorts of movements with them and make up stories about postures and animals too. Great one to be able to customise if you have children of various ages all wanting to join in at the same time. There are lots and lots of resources out there you can buy online with yoga card decks and so forth that can inspire and guide activities. This also flows into stories and using sound as you will see below.
I am sure that you tell oral creative stories to your children all the time, of magical things. I know as a child my dad used to tell us the story of two cicadas that clearly defied the natural laws as they lived for years and years flying around the word on adventures. I don't want to share too much as I think he might be planning a retirement book from a decade of material he created, but they were great and he had us hanging off every word. In essence those creative stories you tell are wonderful for mindfulness and bringing the children into the present moment. Remember Reiki flows with everything you do, your whole being including your breath so as you share a story, how you share the story the pace of your voice and any movements you do all connect back to your energy and the words you are sharing. It's all energy doing what it needs to do. Be 100% present with telling the story.
Walking in the park the other day my 2 year old niece, yes I am blessed with two nieces, could hear everything and named it, car, bike, dog, boat. We heard the noise we looked for where the noise was coming from and she then promptly would name it. All reminded me that we have a great resources in the world around us!
Beyond this, you can use sounds of your own voice and having children make sounds of animals or from nature, like "what sound does the ocean make, move like the ocean, what animals are at the ocean, move and make the sounds of that animal and then even have the children sleep (aka rest) like that animal as you take them on a little story bringing their mind and body from an active movement place into a restful, mindful place. Using musical instruments (real or creative ones) can also be great, especially if they resonate after playing. Using a singing bowl, ring it once then listen until you can't hear the sound anymore, or even loud verses soft sounds. Can they make the sound short or long. All great ideas and if you are musical then you can take it further into that if you like.
Other things to consider...
Many people focus on Children's ages for what is appropriate, which is very true for content and language. It can also be useful to take into account attention spans. Switching activities based on the child's attention span helps them stay in the here and now with you. You will be in tune with your own children so gauge it naturally. Can be interesting overtime if you do a regular practice to make it a little longer, 30sec-1minute each week, (just like I am sure you do with our own practice) and see what works for you and your child.
Children with Learning and Physical Needs
I found this article about children and disabilities and autism a good starting point for linking back to Reiki and there is a lot more out there. If you are interested in learning more feel free to get in touch. Reducing stimuli can really support some children.
Creating a flow
If you are going to do some activities with children feel free to allow their interests to be what creates the flow of what you do. You can set an open intent that "we all have a great time being mindful together" and from there allow what happens to happen. Being in the moment means you may have ideas of what you want to do and remember to let go with whatever sprouts naturally from any planned or unplanned mindful fun time together.