We’ve all been there. Lying in the dark, desperately trying to go to sleep, but growing more agitated and alert instead. It’s bad enough when adults suffer from insomnia, but when kids do? Then the whole family suffers the consequences. Avoid that with a few bedtime practices to get your kids to dreamland (they work for grown-ups, too).
Alphabet Meditation: Kids need to know their alphabet for this practice to work. Give your child a subject: food, Harry Potter characters, animals, etc. Then they think of an example of the subject that starts with each letter. For example, if the subject is fruit, their list might be: apple, banana, cantaloupe… When they find a letter they can’t use, they can skip it or think longer. When they find that their mind has wandered off topic (which will happen repeatedly), remind them to come back to the last letter they remember completing. Teach and practice the Alphabet Meditation with your children to model how to redirect the mind without becoming frustrated. Practicing this meditation is great for kids who can’t fall asleep because they are worried – it gives their minds a more positive, focused topic to think about.
Counting Breath Meditation: Often used in adult yoga classes for the final meditation, Counting Breath is a simple but very effective practice in settling our monkey minds. It’s as simple as inhaling and saying to yourself, “one”. Exhaling and saying to yourself, “one”. The next inhale you say to yourself, “two” and exhale, “two”. Continue to count your breaths. Some people say the number in their mind and also visualize the number floating by. Eventually, and it won’t take long, you’ll realize that you lost count and began to rummage through the thoughts filed away in your brain. Simply start with “one” again. When practicing with your children, remind them that just getting to “three” or “four” can be challenging.
Squeeze and Release: Sometimes, just noticing tension in your body will start the relaxation process. So exaggerate that with Squeeze and Relax. Starting with the feet, make them squeezed up and tight. Hold. Then release and feel them get soft. Do the same with the hands. Make fists and strong arms. Squeeze and hold. Then release. Keep repeating with different parts of the body, ending with squeezing the entire body. Then relax and settle in for rest.
Guided Visualization: Sometimes children need us to guide the way to relaxation. Create vivid mental experiences by using all 5 senses to explore an imaginary internal world. There are several websites that offer free scripts or even video and sound files. With enough practice and experience, kids will eventually be able to guide themselves into rest and relaxation.
Massage: Take a hands-on approach to calming your child and coaxing them to sleep through the power of touch. Use slow, smooth strokes while massaging toward the heart. Legs, arms, back, and belly – it is very soothing, especially if you pair the massage with a soft, repetitive voice. Say something like, “It’s the end of a long day. Close your eyes and float away”. Try this poem to massage your little one’s hands (the massage movements are self-explanatory):
Five little tubes of toothpaste.
Squeeze bottom to the top.
Screw on the cap.
Don’t waste a drop.
Nighty night, little yogis.