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Meditation can be traced back to the 5th century and has consistently been mentioned in various texts over the years. It comes in many forms, such as Sitting Meditation (calming and quieting the mind), Guided Meditation (listening to a story or script that takes the person on a ‘journey’), and Visualization (gazing at various objects, patterns or symbols).
ADHD children can benefit from meditation immensely. Meditation as a tool can help confidence in the ADHD child by giving them the ability to help control their own thoughts. Encouraging the child to clear their thoughts and be in charge of what is happening inside will encourage self-esteem and help calm the mind. Once they have been able to learn to control what goes on inside, they will have the tools needed to help free themselves of unwanted worries, phobias and fears. Creativity will also be increased through encouraging the child to use their imagination during guided meditations and visualizations.
The child’s confidence can benefit from making up their own meditations or by taking it in turns to read from a relaxation book such as those published by Relax Kids. Chanting a word or sound over and over is good for concentration, and a simple chant would be 'Om', though many children enjoy making up their own chants and sounds.
Chanting their own sounds not only keeps the child focused on what they are doing, but it also gives them confidence in their abilities too. Different words I have heard chanted by children over the years include 'Love', 'Yoga', 'Peace' and 'Calm'.
Although meditation can help the child in the long-term, not all the benefits are going to be felt immediately, as it can be difficult for the child to learn how to quiet their mind and let go of worries and unwanted thoughts. Therefore it is very important that the child is given reassurance that everyone finds it hard to relax at first, and sessions should be kept short so as not to frustrate the child.
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Yoga is an ancient practice, developed approximately 5000 years ago in India. The yogis who developed the practice named many of the positions after animals or various objects in nature: Tree, Mountain, Lion, Cobra, Dog, Cat etc. This makes yoga an excellent activity for children, as they can associate with the names and enjoy putting their bodies into the positions of each animal or object.
ADHD children can benefit from yoga a great deal, due to the breathing, concentration, posture and balance that yoga provides. Balancing postures such as Tree or Boat can work wonders for a child's balance and co-ordination, while forward bends are fantastic as they lengthen exhalation, therefore developing concentration on the breath.
Some ADHD children find balancing postures frustrating so take things slowly and praise should always be given to increase confidence. Yoga can be a wonderful way of increasing self-esteem for the ADHD child as many children are convinced that they are unable to stand on one leg, or touch their toes etc. Once they have discovered that through practice they can indeed hold these postures, their self-esteem is enhanced and at the same time their balancing and stretching skills are refined.
Good positions for confidence are those such as Warrior I or Warrior II. These simple yet dynamic stances help confidence by allowing the child to have fun and be playful, but at the same time they encourage them to control their bodies and increases body awareness skills: one moment swaying in the position as a 'surf dude' and the next holding the position (but never the breath) as a proud Warrior.
Another beneficial exercise is the 'bicycle' where a child lies on the back with legs and feet in the air, arms by the sides. The child then moves their legs around as if they are pedaling a bike, whilst imagining that they are cycling wherever they wish to go. This exercise is great for imagination as it encourages the child to make up their own journeys, and it is also good for coordination as children are working opposite sides of their body in tandem, as well as strengthening their legs and tummy muscles.
You can combine standard yoga postures with the opportunity of letting the ADHD child design their own simple, safe positions. Not only does this do wonders for confidence but also concentration too, as the child is able to use their energy in a positive way by thinking about working on different positions. The child can also give the position a name of their choice, and can have fun showing other children or adults how they too can achieve the unique, self-designed pose.
Warning: While yoga and meditation for kids with ADHD are beneficial, the practices should be supervised at all times, in order to remain safe and enjoyable for all.
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Source: author's own experience
Relax Kids, www.RelaxKids.com
Komitor, Jodi B and Adamson, Eve. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga With Kids. Alpha Books, 2000
Photographs by author. Posed by model.