Enough and more has been written and shared about giving your child a holistic approach to education with a good mix of school, music/fine arts and any sport. This creates a good balance between the right and left brain development, as it is not enough to just nurture the intellect. The heart is nourished through music, painting and other arts. Yet, as parents, we often struggle with work-life balance, juggling professional career and parenting, with the feeling of not having given our 100% to parenting. A guilt trip follows and we either engage in an overdose of extra-curricular activities or just stick to academics. If you relate with such a situation, read on.
In today’s world, a child grows up with an overdose of information. Added to this, each child has his own preferences for subjects, music and sport. Children get bored if they are not challenged enough mentally and emotionally. A right balance of challenge helps them blossom and realize their true potential.
Apart from academics and art, imbibing the spirit of faith and prayer is also essential. Prayer helps comfort and relax children who are otherwise overloaded with performance-oriented activities. Prayer and faith can be made engaging for the child by way of story-telling. Thus, spending time with the grandparents and other elders in the family, listening to stories from the Puranas and other stories with values, and playing with grandparents is enriching for the child and energizing for the elders too! Also, a good spin off from these activities is that children learn new things; they don't have idle time which they would otherwise while away watching TV or browsing the Internet.
Parents can tell children stories of Ganesha - the god with the elephant face who rides a little mouse; of Hanuman, the monkey god who is full of enthusiasm - these evince keen interest in children. When they get a little older, we can teach them simple shlokas or prayers. In fact, when we chant aloud in the presence of children, they chant alongside us. They have a keen sense of hearing and love to mimic, which makes them quick learners. So, beginning with games and songs, and then through stories, we can instill the habit of prayer in them.
Children are innocent and natural. This is the age when their intuitive abilities develop. A little prayer and meditation calms them and empowers them amazingly. In fact, there is extensive correlation between prayer and children’s personality. Children who pray tend to be more pleasing and in good cheer. Children who have inculcated prayer in their routine have shown remarkable progress in their levels of concentration which directly impacts their performance in academics.
An International research study, conducted by The Conversation, which combines 15 studies involving 1800 children from 6 diverse countries such as the UK, US, India, Australia, Taiwan and Canada, shows that teaching meditation in schools has positive effects on students’ well-being, social and academic skills. Students who were taught meditation at school reported higher optimism, more positive emotions, stronger self-identity, greater self-acceptance. They took better care of their health and experienced reduced anxiety and stress. This was compared to their nature before the meditation programs and to that of peers who were not taught meditation. The research showed that meditation helps the social life of students by increasing pro-social behaviour (like helping others) and decreasing anti-social behaviour (like anger and disobedience).
Scientific reports in many other journals support these findings. The article in Psychology Today speaks about the five proven benefits of prayer: prayer improves self-control, prayer makes you nicer; prayer makes you more forgiving; prayer increases trust and prayer offsets the negative health effects of stress. An amazing study confirms this with a nice video:
There is saying in Tamil that what you learn when you are 5 years old stays with you even when you are 50 years old. So, it is essential to inculcate the right values, work towards balanced development through right food and activities—mentally through cognitive skills and emotionally through the quality time we spend with our children and the values we teach them. This is the foundation for them to grow up into sensible and sensitive individuals with a caring and sharing attitude towards all.
The author works with The Art of Living.