Loving-Kindness Meditation for Kids: what it is and how to practice

Cartoon hand holding bright pink heart on light pink background representing loving-kindness meditation.

Explore loving-kindness meditation

If your little one could use a boost to the love they show themselves and others, consider teaching them how to do a loving-kindness meditation, or LKM, for short. It’s a very easy meditation practice to teach kids, and it’s not just all warm-fuzzies: Loving-kindness meditation is scientifically proven, in many research studies, to offer benefits for practitioners’ physical and mental wellbeing. 

When little ones practice loving-kindness meditation, they gain a skill that they can use for the rest of their lives. When kids learn how to send out these good vibes, almost like virtual hugs, to themselves, loved ones, and all creatures on earth, they feel better. Self-critical feelings melt, anger dissolves, and they finish the practice feeling much more positive.

The versatility of loving-kindness meditation

Loving-kindness meditation is a secular practice, with roots from ancient Vedic times, meaning that people of any religion or spiritual background can freely practice. Unlike many other types of meditation, practicing a loving-kindness meditation can be done in almost any setting. Whether a child is riding the school bus, at recess, or in their meditation space at home, they can easily practice a loving-kindness meditation.
Because the practice is simple, once kids have done it a few times, they won’t even need to follow a script. They can make up their own words and choose the people they want to send loving wishes to. 

What is a loving-kindness meditation?

A loving-kindness meditation, also called metta meditation, is the practice of sending love to yourself, loved ones, others, and all creatures on the earth. If any meditation practice was like a love letter, it would be loving-kindness meditation.

It’s a meditation practice that is centered around opening your heart to unconditional love, connecting with it, and sending it out to others like your loved ones, those who are neutral to you, those who you may have some difficulties with, and all beings on the planet.

It’s a simple practice, with many benefits, but it can sometimes be difficult for us, because we may feel that we, or others, are not deserving of love. That’s okay. We are human, and within our human-ness there are a lot of “big” feelings. These might be feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, fear, distrust, self-doubt, and feeling critical, of ourselves or others.

Loving-kindness and compassion

Because loving-kindness increases the capacity for empathy, peaceful, positive feelings often arise while doing, or after the meditation. A loving-kindness meditation may not change the person you are sending the wishes to, but it opens your heart to love and compassion by helping  you see others in a kinder, gentler way.

And when you see someone else in a new, and more positive light, you may respond to them differently, perhaps even with more love and compassion, and this may improve your relationship with them. At the very least, having compassion for others is quite healthy for you, and leads to many benefits.

Benefits of loving-kindness meditation

Tapping into love of this meditation practice is quite beneficial, for both adults and kids. Loving-kindness meditations are proven to have immediate and often long-lasting benefits. Below are some of these research-based benefits.

Increases positive emotions and wellbeing

Research shows that practicing loving-kindness meditation is positively correlated with increasing positive emotions like joy, love, and hope. Acting like a domino effect, this increase of positive emotions leads to greater personal resources (e.g., social support) which ultimately results in greater overall wellbeing.

Immediate relaxation

After just 10 minutes of a loving-kindness practice researchers found practitioners had slower respiration and a calmed parasympathetic nervous system.

Reduces self-criticism

Studies show that practicing loving-kindness meditation can reduce self-criticism. This is very important for kids who often struggle with a lot of self-judgment. When kids are self-critical they have increased stress and anxiety. This leads to a lack of confidence, an unwillingness to try new things, and can even affect their learning and performance in school.

Improves social connections

Loving-kindness meditation has also been linked to improving social connections. This is because the empathy and compassion gained from meditation translate into accepting others more easily and being less judgmental, in turn, enhancing and increasing social connections. For kids, this is especially helpful when making new friends and navigating social situations in childhood.

How kids can practice a loving-kindness meditation

1. To begin, find a quiet place and settle in. Having a cozy blanket around you, or playing soft music might be helpful.

2. Slow your breathing by inhaling through the nose, if you are able, and then exhaling slowly through the mouth. 

3. As you inhale, feel your belly rise, like a balloon, and make your exhale longer, as if you are slowly letting the air out of the balloon. 

4. If you are able, imagine that you are in the presence of someone you love. This could be a spiritual guide or a mentor, a special tree, or for kids, a favorite grown-up, pet or stuffed animal. 

5. As you repeat the refrain (below) think about the words, don’t just repeat them. Feel the emotion and the meaning behind them as you send out the loving-kindness wishes. 

6. Use the refrain (or write one that is meaningful to you) and send the loving-kindness out to yourself, someone close to you, someone who is neutral to you, someone who it might be difficult for you to feel loving towards, and then finally, to all beings on the planet. 

7. Kids especially enjoy sending love out to animals, fish, birds, trees and wildlife. 

8. Use the following refrain:
May (I, you) be happy.
May (I, you) be safe.
May (I, you) be free from pain.
May (I, you) feel peaceful.
May (I, you) always be well.

If you and your child want to change the order of wishes, that is completely fine. Little ones often like to begin with all beings on the planet. Adults sometimes find it hard to begin with themselves. Once you do the practice you will find the way that best works for you.

Wee Meditate

Wee Meditate has many loving-kindness meditations that teach kids how to practice in a way that is accessible, meaningful, and beneficial. 

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