May 18, 2009 / 7:48 AM / 10 years ago

Meditation classes offer tranquility for kids

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - The tantrums. The tears. Every parent knows that life can be stressful for toddlers, tweens and teens, so Australian schools are trying to add a little zen to their day through meditation classes.

Kashmiri children meditate under the Art of Living's Youth Leadership Training Programme (YLTP), in the southern Indian city of Bangalore September 22, 2005. REUTERS/Jagadeesh

Children as young as five are being taught to stay still, keep silent and recite an internal mantra through Christian and

non-religious meditation programs throughout the country.

The classes have been dubbed by some practitioners as the cheapest way to combat bullying at school, with teachers reporting meditating students are mostly calmer.

“When children are empowered with the know-how to meditate, they can use their superhero or fairy power to feel safe, focused and happy,” Sarah Wood, author of “Sensational Meditation for Children,” said on her website.

In 2006, Townsville, in northern Queensland, hosted Australia’s first Christian meditation program, which has now spread to schools across the country.

“It teaches the kids to be more attentive and more mindful and certainly more present,” Ernie Christie, assistant director of Townsville’s Catholic Education Office, told Reuters.

“In fact it’s been referred to as the cheapest anti-bullying campaign, as the teachers report that the kids are calmer afterwards and nicer to each other.”

The meditation program is part of the children’s religious education class and the length of time they meditate corresponds to their age: 5-year-olds learn to meditate for 5 minutes, three times a week, while 17-year-olds meditate for 17 minutes up to five times a week.

The practice is also helpful for children with learning difficulties and conditions such as Down Syndrome, Christie said.

“The children not only like it, they ask their teachers if can they meditate. I think in their busy lives, that’s the one time that it’s okay to be absolutely still and silent,” he said.

Sydneysider 7-year-old twins Taj and Lauren Cronin have been practicing meditation for about 12 months, and their parents believe the ability to switch-off will benefit them for life.

“It just gives them something they can do if they are over excited. It’s more a long-term benefit,” Jennifer Cronin said.

“It’s going to be a helpful tool to really free themselves from the stress that comes through on a daily basis, particularly in teenage years,” added Tom Cronin.

“It helps hormonal levels and helps alleviate the build-up of the pressures that come with student life.”

The Cronins, who meditate themselves, say they don’t push their children, as their brains are still rapidly developing and too much down-time for the mind can backfire.

But for the children, meditation is something they look forward to.

“It makes me feel relaxed,” Taj Cronin said.

Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy

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