From COVID-19 to fighting for racial justice, right now stress is high for all of us — including our kids.
While we encourage you to continue having necessary conversations with your children about racism and COVID-19 often (recent Sesame Street specials can help if you don’t know where to begin — get them here and here), it’s also important to help yourself and your kids to self-care by giving them tools to manage big feelings (and the awareness from us that those big feelings may manifest differently in our kids’ behaviors than they do in ours).
To help us with all of this, we reached out to Andrés Restrepo, founder of Vibras Meditation, which is a new kid-friendly experience that teaches emotional self-regulation via live-streamed meditation and movement classes each week for kiddos ages four to 11 years old.
My five-year-old daughter and I did a Vibras Meditation class that paired movement with positive phrases and mantras about being strong and brave, and it was truly a unique and empowering experience (for both of us, to be honest).
Read on as Andrés answers some of our biggest questions about how we can all help our kids deal with stress and anxiety.
FBG: Where did you get the idea for Vibras Meditation from?
Andrés Restrepo: I spent 20 years of my adult life looking for an answer to alleviate anxiety and stress. I tried every remedy possible, but none of the dozens of doctors or experts could give a solution to improve my quality of life, emotionally or physically, completely; everything seemed like a band-aid. Once I discovered meditation and built a consistent routine, everything started to change. I went from pessimistic to optimistic, frustrated to loving — I became the happiest person around. This drove me to create a program to teach children meditation, giving them the tools I didn’t have as a child.
How similar and how different is it than most forms of meditation that adults are familiar with?
Vibras Meditation is like nothing you have ever seen … because there’s nothing like it. First, where most meditations are based on the mind, we are based on the heart. Kids know how to intuitively tap into positive emotions. Secondly, we use the children’s energy as an advantage. Instead of trying to get kids to sit in meditation, we use their energy as a source of positivity we can use during meditation. It makes all the difference.
How would you describe a typical class?
We always pick a specific theme to focus on during the class. In the past, we have used compassion, gratitude, and even resilience as themes. We start with high-energy exercises using affirmations to learn about the meaning and benefits of our theme. During the second phase, we use breathing exercises to focus this high, positive energy. In the last part of the class we use this concentrated energy to tap further into our emotions as part of our heart-focused meditation. We always end the class with sharing and a namaste.
With stress so high right now — plus so much change — what are some less obvious ways that kids may act differently than normal beyond meltdowns?
I have heard from parents that because of the lack of outside activity, kids’ energies are always running high. This makes things very difficult for parents who are working from home while also helping children with school. Because we teach kids to focus their energy through our exercises, we have gotten many reports that after kids are done with our class, they go right to sleep.
What are some easy ways parents can help their kids relieve stress and anxiety?
Tensing the body with a short then long inhale through the nose, holding and then releasing the tension with a short then long exhale through the mouth is a great way to release pent-up energy, otherwise known as stress. Kids love relaxation techniques that involve moving the body, especially shaking negativity out.
Talk to us about routines. What are some simple routines kids of all ages can do at home to feel more grounded and happier?
You don’t have to spend a lot of time daily to build a routine. Even five minutes of sitting in calm meditation can make a huge difference, as long as it’s consistent. The routine itself is not difficult; it’s how to build the routine. If you mix a few fun exercises at the beginning, then move into meditation using energy as a bridge, you can see, like we have, that even a 10-minute meditation might feel short to an 8-year-old.
If there’s one single thing parents could do right now to boost the mental health of their kids, what would it be?
Reassure the truth that kids already know but slowly start to forget as they grow up: they have an amazing ability to tap into positive emotions, even at will, by focusing the attention on the heart and expanding their feelings. Kids can, by themselves, create an aura of peace and love more easily than adults.
Anything else you’d like to add or would like our readers to know?
We are currently offering free virtual classes 12 times a week for kids ages four to 11 to help parents and children during the pandemic. Join us at https://vibrasmeditation.com.
Have you noticed your kids having more big feelings than usual? What other ways are you helping them? We’ve found getting outside and taking time to talk about how we’re all feeling every day to be so, so helpful as well. –Jenn