Parents are innately wired to be on high alert for their children’s safety and that includes monitoring what our children are exposed to via the news. Our radios, computers and televisions are often flooded with negative and violent media, alerts of shootings and horrific violent acts. A quote from Frontiers in Pediatrics addressing the mental and emotional health of children exposed to news media shares, “Exposure to violence through the media, videogames, movies, or news about disasters and/or individual incidents has different implications for the pediatric population, and multiple studies have shown a link to adverse mental health effects in children.”
This is today’s reality and the the reality is, we can do our best to monitor what our children are exposed to, but we can’t keep our children separated from the suffering of the world forever. Bad things happen and our children will have some exposure to these difficult and disheartening realities throughout their lifetime. This summer, maybe more than ever, I found myself contemplating answers to questions from my curious 10-year old son. “Mom, why would a man walk into a club and kill 50 people?” “Mom, why would a 12-year old boy put a bomb on himself to kill people?”
So how do we answer these difficult questions when as adults we can’t wrap our minds around these senseless acts. We can choose to have discussions with our kids about the devastating consequences of hate, ongoing conversation about bullying, remind our kids that kindness and compassion are alive and well in the world and discuss ways we can contribute...but what I’ve found, is that often kids want to do something with what they are feeling. Sometimes it’s not enough to just talk about it, sometimes in the face of sorrow they want action.
In my work with children I’ve found that action can be very powerful. When we allow children to do something with their feelings it can be very empowering. We don’t negate feelings themselves; we can honor what we are feeling, then take action to care for our feelings.
With a rich history dating back thousands of years, loving-kindness meditation or Metta from the Pali language, is the cultivation of benevolence, kindness and amity unto all beings. It is a meditation practice of heart—a feeling of warmth and care for oneself and others. Loving-kindness meditation reminds us of the interconnectedness between all beings and collectively, our wish for well-being. It’s far more effective than producing momentary good feelings. This increasingly popular form of meditation has undergone research in the past several years and science is pointing to the many positive mental and emotional effects of individuals who practice regularly.
It’s a simple practice that is easy to do with children. It’s the repetition of some simple phrases, directing them towards yourself and then to others. Loving kindness can be given and received. It’s a beautiful practice that is interchangeable. A practice that I offer to myself when I am faced with challenging times, and offer to others including the world when the world needs a little healing.
Below is a link to a guided meditation which gives you and your child the experience of the meditation. This meditation can be used as part of a nightly routine and it can also be used as a tool for you and your family when faced with challenging times. I invite you to create a loving-kindness meditation practice that fits for you and your family; create phrases or wording that connects to you.
May you be brave and feel safe, may you be happy just the way you are, may you live gently with love and kindness, may you feel peace in your heart. ~Jen