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Thread: My 5 year old wants to sit -- looking for advice.

  1. #1

    My 5 year old wants to sit -- looking for advice.

    Good evening, folks. My oldest son, who is 5, has known that I've sat for the past few years. He hasn't expressed an interest beyond simple curiosity, which is fine by me. I figure that he has plenty of time to figure out what he wants to do, and I'm not looking to push him in any religious direction. More recently, I've been sewing zafus. Seeing this, he asked me a couple of days ago if he could sit with me. I said yes, but was immediately struck by the notion that I have no idea what I'm doing in this area. I don't know how many minutes would be appropriate for a little guy or what, if any instruction, I should give him. Any advice is much appreciated.


  2. #2
    Just speaking from experience, if he wants to sit with you, I say let him. Maybe start with five minutes, see how he does? My little ones try to sit with me a few times but quickly got bored, which is okay!

    For me as long as it was their idea not mine, I was more than happy to have them sit with me. When they decided it was too boring and wanted to go do something else, I also encouraged that.

    Gentleness, no force, his control. That's my suggestion.

  3. #3
    Leon sits with me for about 10 minutes now and then ... before either dashing off or falling asleep. My daughter sometimes too, but she is still a toddler. I just let them sit peacefully in my lap or nearby. I do not offer any detailed instructions, but may tell Leon not to think about anything, and "just feel peaceful" (something a child can understand without going into anything intricate).

    I do not think that we need to insist that our young children sit Zazen, but it is fine if they want. It is best just to create a loving home in which lessons of Wisdom and Compassion, the Precepts and other teachings of the Buddha are naturally passed down to our children. Let them learn about Zazen from seeing the place and effect that Zazen has in our lives Then, years from now, when they are grown ... maybe they will turn to it too (your child saying years from now, "That Practice had a positive effect on mom and dad, and they were good parents ... maybe I should try that too").

    Now, when he plops down in my lap, he is always welcome. If he is making noise, I ask him kindly to stop while I am sitting. However, ultimately, the noise is "just what is" and we sit with it, all the Buddha's chanting ...

    I do try to teach Leon some basic Buddhist and Zen lessons, such as not buying into how one feels or thinks in any one moment, to be non-violent and peaceful, etc. So far, it seems like it is sinking in as well as any life lessons a parent can hand down to a child.

    In the meantime, one issue for me is those times I had to give a "time out" to Leon, and have him sit in the corner. It looks too much like Zazen. In fact, when Leon was younger, he asked my wife if papa was "bad all the time, because he is always sitting in the corner"! I think he now understands the difference!

    Gassho, Jundo Dad
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-04-2013 at 04:40 AM.

  4. #4
    I've been through this with my niece, as well. I answer any questions she asks as best I can, and she's free to use my cushions if she wants.
    Diligently attain nothing. Sort of. Best not to over-think it.

  5. #5
    Hi Shujin,

    I don't know about Zazen but a general piece of advice that I heard many times is that less than 12 years is too early for kids to start meditation. It may not be safe either. Below is the link from my earlier teacher on this.


  6. #6
    My son is 9 now, since he was about 7 he from time to time joins me on zazenkai, he knows he can enter at any time and he will not disturb me. If he comes in, he sits as long as he wants. Usually thats 5...15 minutes. once or twice a month he asks to sit with me in the evening, then we agree on a time we want to sit together, however, he's free to leave early if its not working out. We take 10..20 minutes, start together and in average he make its every second sit until the end. I not talk about anything apart from posture and only because his is even worse than mine, so I can help with that. As daddy sits on a bench he want to sit on a bench too, though he can do a great full lotus, but thats just not the real thing ;-)

  7. #7
    My son sits with me from time to time, but it is not for a set period. What matters is just getting a taste of basic space, feeling whatever he is feeling. He has been taught as a matter of course that clouds come and go, but the sky is always there... and that sitting is just being the sky and the clouds. He also understands that everything is impermanent, which is sad, but also good, because otherwise we would be up to our armpits in stuff.

    Gassho, Daizan
    As a trainee I ask that all comments by me on matters of Dharma be taken with "a grain of salt".

  8. #8
    It's reassuring to read all these comments, as I had thought about asking very similar questions a couple of weeks back. My daughter is 8 and sometimes struggles a bit with things. She has expressed an interest in meditation, and we were considering trying something simple like 5 minutes of mindfulness of breathing. If she wishes to develop further into sitting zazen like daddy then great, I would encourage it.


  9. #9
    This is a great thread!

    My boys started asking about meditation a few years ago, so I've experimented with explaining different types to them. I'm no expert in any form, but with kids, it's best to keep it simple. I follow the rule of thumb of sitting one minute per year of age (since my boys are 9 and 12, we sit usually for 10-12 minutes) and it has worked for us. I try to sit with them a couple times per week. I tell them to sit however makes them comfortable. Sometimes they sit on their cushions, sometimes they lay down and focus on the ceiling. Because they have such active minds, I've taught them to try putting their thoughts in a bubble and then let the bubble float away. They've also used the clouds in the sky technique. With kids, I've found that it is easier for them to have something to picture in their minds.

    We've also talked about belly breathing, filling your stomach like there is a balloon inside with air, then releasing it as the balloon deflates. I've never wanted it to be too formal, so we've tried many things and they've seemed to find something that works for them. They seem to really enjoy it.

    Best wishes to you and your children sitting together, it really is a lovely experience.


  10. #10
    Treeleaf Engineer Seimyo's Avatar
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    Jan 2012
    Yuba City, California, USA
    Great thread. I don't have children, but it's great to read about kids being exposed to meditation. Even if they get little from it at their young age, perhaps they will reflect on that time as they mature.

    I've often thought that our 'at-risk' high school population could benefit from our practice. Too bad there's no easy way to expose them.

    Deep bows to all the Zen Mommies and Daddies out there.

    明 Seimyō (Christhatischris)

  11. #11
    My youngest came with me once and sat with the monks at the local Forest Sangha Vihara. They were kind and cut short the sit. He still reads books by the Dalai Lama and the Forest Sangha Dhammapanda. He asks questions now and then. I just let him know he can ask what he likes. I just don't want my children to think that sitting is something outside the everyday i.e. a mystical secret ritual. They have all visited Japan and we spent a great time in Kyoto so they have a small taste of zen in situ. In fact so much so that I think we temple-d and tempura-ed them out!!

    Seimyo, as far as at-risk school populations go, I run a taiji qigong club at school, which is completely voluntary with no expectations for children to attend regularly. I have been doing this for about 5 years now and funniily enough it is the at-risk children who regularly attend! In fact they have made me spend 2 lunch times a week doing the practice! Even more amusing when it's the youngest (6-7 year olds) who run around and nag me to come down to the hall! We always end with a minute of standing silence. I have been thinking of moving this into sitting but need to make sure that they understand breathing with movement before breathing with stillness. Maybe in the summer when we can go outside? My main concern is that parents may be concerned that I am doing sometrhing religious. However the children will dictate how the club develops as they progress with the qigong movements.
    平 息

  12. #12
    Any kind of self-enforced stillness or attempt at single pointed breath following will be very unpleasant for most kids in this ADD world. It is better, IMHO, to introduce a simple sitting, without any " concentration". My son has ADHD and Tourettes, but it is easy to evoke a simple open "just be" space that doesn't cramp or coerce his energy. Open and simple.. until he has to move. He has done it a lot over the years... and he is more at home in his own skin, and in the world, because of it.

    Yeah great subject this... a big one.

    Gassho, Daizan
    As a trainee I ask that all comments by me on matters of Dharma be taken with "a grain of salt".

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Hi Shujin,

    I don't know about Zazen but a general piece of advice that I heard many times is that less than 12 years is too early for kids to start meditation. It may not be safe either. Below is the link from my earlier teacher on this.

    I believe, with the flavors of rather intense Yogic meditations described at the link (such as "deep spinal breathing" and the like), there may be more of a concern than in the case of Shikantaza.

    Gassho, J

  14. #14
    Thank you, all. A wonderful breadth of experience & knowledge. My son has been diagnosed with ADHD and sensory issues (outside the DSM, for now). Considering the manic ball of personality that he is, I was surprised that he expressed any interest. Whatever happens, I'm grateful for the help.


  15. #15

    I have been diagnosed with ADD (before they called it ADHD!) and have sensory issues as well. My wife was saying just today that my practice has helped me with those issues more than medication ever did (I stopped taking it a couple years ago), so I would highly suggest it for him at some point. I imagine he might find the stillness attractive, especially if it is something he feels he cannot "attain". But I would agree with the folks above who said it shouldn't be forced or expected. Allow him to be curious, answer his questions, and sit with him if he wishes. Let him come to it if he chooses...the great thing about buddhism compared to other religions is that our kids can choose if they wish to follow us on the path!

    If I am posting, I have sat today.

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