Caring Feelings: Practicing Kindness and Compassion for Children

The Caring Feelings activity is a child-friendly version of a Loving Kindness practice, which is a type of meditation that can help your child develop compassion, contentment, and a feeling of well-being.

In a traditional adult Loving Kindness practice, kind thoughts would be sent to the self, to people close to you, to people you feel neutral about, and to people who you are angry or upset with, and extend to the entire world. In our version, we are going to start with someone that your child loves very much, as this is the easiest way to access their kindness. We will end with the self, and, eventually, after this practice becomes familiar, you can try including someone a little bit challenging. 

  1. Begin by finding a comfortable seat; close your eyes.
  2. Bring to mind someone that you love very much. Imagine them walking into the room, and sitting down in front of you. Notice how sitting with this person makes you feel. This can be a family member or a friend. It can even be a pet. Imagine that person and begin to send caring feelings to that person. Notice how imagining this person makes your heart feel.
  3. Now send some wishes to the person you’ve brought to mind. For instance, you can say, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be filled with joy.”
  4. Next, send some kind thoughts to the people in your family—siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be filled with joy.”
  5. Now imagine sending loving kindness to children around the world—the ones who we know and the one’s who we don’t know. Imagine all of the children living around the world, the ones in your own neighborhood, and the ones who are living far away in other countries. Say to them, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be filled with joy.”
  6. Finally, let's send loving kindness to ourselves. Sometimes it can be challenging to send kind wishes and caring feelings to yourself, but, if you learn how, you will always be able to give yourself a boost of love when you need it. Imagine yourself sitting in a quiet place where you feel comfortable and safe, and imagine that there is a mirror in front of you. Look at yourself in the mirror for a moment, and then say to yourself three times, “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful. May I be filled with joy.”
  7. Sit quietly for a moment or two, then open your eyes.(When practicing with children, you can ring the singing bowl, to let them know that it’s time to open their eyes.)


Drawing by Karen Gilmour

Follow-up: Ask your child or your students how they felt about sending out the caring feelings, especially how it felt sending them to themselves. You might talk about times when they have sent unkind feelings to others or to themselves, and how that felt. Ask if there is anyone else they would like to send caring feelings to before you finish up for the day.

Challenges: Once this activity becomes familiar, try including a person that your child has a hard time with in his kind thoughts. Be sure to avoid anyone that your child finds frightening or is extremely angry at. Instead, try using language like “someone who annoys you” or “someone who has been bugging you lately.”

Daily Practice: Loving Kindness is a wonderful practice to bring into your daily life, as an antidote to the negative thoughts we all have about ourselves from time to time. Encourage your child to send himself kind and caring thoughts throughout the day, especially if he is feeling a little bit down. As the practice gets familiar, you can both experiment with sending kind thoughts to someone after an argument or disagreement. Explain to your child that sending kind thoughts to someone else is a way to help himself feel better, even if he is still upset with the other person.

(Special thanks to Karen Gilmour for the fantastic illustration – learn more about Karen HERE)

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