“If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
The first time Tejal V. Patel heard this quote from the Dalai Lama, she knew she wanted to make his prophecy come true. And 10 years later, she’s certainly on her way to doing so.
The Mullica Hill resident and mindfulness and meditation expert recently published “Meditation for Kids,” a how-to guide to give children and their parents the tools needed to manage emotions, alleviate stress and help find focus in the day-to-day.
“My real intention is to bridge the gap for parents. A lot of times, parents will be like, ‘I don’t meditate, so how can I teach my kids?’ That’s a big fear holding them back,” Patel said. “Part of my expertise is helping parents understand, helping parents feel confident in their ability and really creating the desirability to do it.
“We want to prioritize our children’s mental and spiritual health as much as their physical health.”
Patel’s own path to mindfulness started a decade ago. A divorce attorney at the time, 99 percent of Patel’s clients were parents. She was often working with couples trying to be as amicable as possible throughout their separation, hoping to establish healthy co-parenting strategies. Her job was “part attorney, but part therapist,” as she puts it.
“You’re talking about their children very openly. A lot of them express concerns,” Patel said. “They’re noticing the effects of the divorce on their children.”
It was during this time Patel started to go on her own personal spiritual journey, studying meditation, yoga and breathing exercises. Through her studies and in introducing some of the methods to her clients, she began to recognize these practices were beneficial for all ages.
“I learned these tools in my mid-20s,” Patel said, “and if I had them as a child, how would my life have been different?”
Patel wanted to find out.
At the time, Patel and her husband, Chirag, owned Bright Beginnings Academy preschools in Sicklerville, Sewell and Cherry Hill. Patel earned her kids yoga certification and started teaching classes to children ages 3 to 8.
“I was infusing the meditation and the mindfulness, and really found such deep fulfillment in that work,” Patel said.
Along the way, Patel started writing about the topic, and her articles were getting picked up by well-known websites, such as HuffPost and mindbodygreen. Moms started asking her for advice on how to coach their children at home and, eventually, Patel moved out of law and started teaching children full time, expanding into teaching educators and parents as well.
“I recognized, for children to really embody these tools, the parents and teachers they are with all the time need to be able to practice and reinforce them,” Patel said.
When considering those who practice meditation and mindfulness, children may not be the first to come to mind. In fact, with their boundless energy, short attention spans and inability to sit still, they may not come to mind at all.
“Meditation for Kids” explains not only how children can meditate and practice mindfulness, but why starting at a young age — Patel began working with her own children, 5-year-old Ayaan and 1-year-old Rihaan, at age 1 — is extremely beneficial.
“The conditions and circumstances in the world today, we have to be infusing these things in our children more than ever,” Patel said, noting the National Institute of Mental Health reports one in five children will experience some clinical level of anxiety before reaching adolescence. “They need the skills and tools to help make them, not only in childhood, but also in adulthood, build stress resilience to manage difficult emotions without debilitating them.”
The book’s approach is “very playful,” Patel said, with exercises and methods dubbed “happy dragon breath” and “sipping strawberry smoothies,” among others. It is rooted in the science of Ayurveda and yoga, and is a road map of which tools to practice in which order, with 40 tools divided into five chapters based on the type of stress children experience, from jealousy to frustration, anger to disappointment. A short online study course is available, too, to guide parents through the steps.
“It basically infuses yogic wisdom in a way that’s playful and really understandable for parents and for kids,” Patel said.
Patel is “extremely, extremely” proud of the book, which is being released around the globe — in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, India. She calls it a one-stop shop for busy parents.
“It’s going to be an invaluable resource because it’s going to take the guesswork out of what do I teach, how do I teach, how do I practice it in a way that’s engaging and fun and playful for my kids,” Patel said. “Sometimes, these things need to be simplified.”
“Meditation for Kids” is available now at all major retailers and at www.meditationforkidsbook.com. Find mindful parenting courses and more on Patel’s website at www.tejalvpatel.com. Listen to her podcast “The Time-in Talks.” Find Patel on Facebook @tejalpatel.tv. Follow Patel on Twitter and Instagram @tejalvpatel, where she encourages those “raising the first generation of mindful meditating children” to use the hashtag #kidscanmeditate and tag her on posts.
Since the current COVID-19 pandemic derailed some of Patel’s book launch plans, she will instead be hosting a national online book launch event on May 9. Tickets are available through Patel’s website.