The Kind Wishes activity is a child-friendly version of a lovingkindness practice, a type of meditation that can help develop compassion for others, and crucially for the self.
In a traditional adult lovingkindness 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 usually the easiest way to access their compassion.
- Sit up tall. Close your eyes or look at one spot that isn’t moving. If there are other people in the room, imagine that you are sitting all by yourself. Notice what it feels like to sit with yourself.
- Imagine someone that you care about very much walking into the room and sitting down right in front of you. What does it feel like to sit with this person?… Let’s send them some kind wishes. Say to yourself, either out loud or in your mind:….May you be happy…May you be healthy…May you be safe….May you be strong.
- How did you feel when you sent kind wishes to this person? Happy? Proud? Sad? Any other feelings? Was it easy or hard to send kind wishes to this person?
- Now close your eyes again and imagine someone you think is a little annoying or frustrating. Maybe your sister or brother when they are driving you crazy, or a friend you had an argument with recently. It could even be a teacher or a parent. Imagine that person walking into the room and sitting down in front of you. What does it feel like to sit with this person?… Let’s send them some kind wishes. Say to yourself, out loud or silently, ….May you be happy…May you be healthy…May you be safe…May you be strong. How did it feel to send this person kind wishes?
- Now close your eyes, and imagine yourself sitting with a mirror in front of you. Look into the mirror and notice what it feels like to sit here with yourself… Now send some kind feelings to yourself, by saying ….May I be happy…May I be healthy…May I be safe…May I be strong.
- Notice what it feels like to send these kind wishes to yourself. Take a few steady breaths, and when you are ready open your eyes.
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.