I've been thinking for a while about writing a series of posts about meditation with children, but was afraid you'd think I was some kind of smug child mental health expert living in a house full of candles and calm. Nothing could be further from the case.
The Coffee House throbs with anger and frustration. If we even open the windows a crack, we worry that the howls of stress and injustice will be heard several streets away. It's not the calm ones who need meditation most - it's people like us. The Lattes are a potent combination of pre-teen hormones and seven-year-old aggression. We're on a choppy sea, riding an incredibly rickety raft.
So let's start with mandalas. Tibetan monks take days to produce elaborate sand mandalas from millions of grains of coloured sand. The making of the mandala is a meditation in itself.
I'm not advocating filling your kitchen table with sand. But the act of colouring in is a great way of slowing down, both for children and adults. Setting the whole thing in the context of Buddhism not only gives you the smug satisfaction of having crammed in a bit of RE, it also means that your nearly-12-year-old doesn't kick off at the idea of colouring in a picture of fairies or farm animals.
There are plenty of free printable mandala colouring sheets online. Or there are books like these Doodles colouring pads, which offer dozens of pages of calm.
This beautiful time-lapse video from CNN (there's more about mandalas on their blog) is definitely worth a watch (it might just make you feel calmer without getting out the pencils!)
As an added bonus - see how quickly the mandala is swept away before being carried to a river! And so too our own crayoned mandalas can go - spreading their blessings throughout the world as part of our recycling. You need feel no guilt about putting it into the paper bin!