Within the field of physics, energy is defined as the capacity to do work. When we first learn about energy in most standard school systems, we learn about it from the scientific viewpoint. Energy is categorized into a variety of forms: chemical, electrical, nuclear, gravitational, and potential, to name a few. These are perhaps necessary scientific teachings, and yet there is an opportunity to explain energy to children from a more holistic perspective, facilitating development of their innate emotional and social intelligence.
Energy, from a more holistic or spiritual perspective, is considered to be a universal life force. It goes by different names in various traditions, such as prana or chi, but the essence is the same. Energy simply refers to that which makes life possible. It fuels our emotions, our interactions with others, our thought patterns, our social engagements, and every movement within nature. Energy can appear mental, physical, or emotional; each of these appearances is made of the same underlying life force.
This broader understanding can help us to reach and teach children on a more fundamental and human level. By expanding their view of life and of the universal energy that runs through them, we raise loving and compassionate children with a broader understanding of the way that life and energy moves. This viewpoint can help them to better understand their emotions and increase their sense of self-awareness.
As children grow up, they begin to interact with life in more interesting and complex ways; the concept of life begins to expand. As children become more aware of themselves and of the world around them, life expands to include challenging emotions, social interactions, and environmental considerations. By teaching children about energy, we offer them the tools to better understand their emotions, the behaviours of others, and the movement of the world around them. This awareness and deeper understanding of life makes for big-hearted kids with an increased capacity to navigate the constantly changing world around them.
There are various teachings and mindful practices for kids that can be introduced to help them better understand the energy that lives within them. By understanding this flow of energy, children can better direct and manage their emotions and social interactions in healthy ways.
Energy activities and lessons for children
1. Nature observation
By bringing children into the natural world, we can facilitate expansion of their awareness by inquiring into their perception of energy in the outside world. Where do they see the energy’s presence? How do they know that energy exists? By allowing them to quietly and consciously observe the world around them, we invite them to become more in tune with their innate feel for energy. We can prompt them if needed, noting the movement of wind, water, and bugs. We can open their senses to what is unseen: energy’s subtle movement beneath the surface of the soil and the invisible but constant growth of plants and flowers. Energy is everywhere; through curious contemplation, we help them to understand this.
2. Emotional awareness
Through explaining to kids that emotions are neither good nor bad but that there are more and less beneficial ways of managing our feelings, we open space for honest dialogue to occur when emotions inevitably arise. By teaching them that emotions are simply energy manifesting in different ways, we empower them to explore what moves within them when emotions crop up. When children are overcome by emotion, we can guide them into their bodies. Rather then fueling the stories that attach themselves to the emotion, can we guide them to feel and inquire about any bodily sensations that arise at the same time? Perhaps energy arises as tightness in the chest, a lump in the throat, or tension in the shoulders. By guiding them into this gentle awareness, we strengthen the child’s emotional intelligence. This is an incredibly calming practice for kids. We help to raise compassionate and loving children this way by showing them that judgment of emotions is not necessary. We provide them with a safe container to explore their feelings with compassion.
3. The power of visualization
We can help children to better direct and manage their energy by introducing them to the power of visualization. When emotions or other energy expressions are high, the mind is a powerful tool to help lower the sensation and bring the child back into their silent and still center. We can introduce visualization at anytime, whether emotions are running rampant or are well balanced. Bring the child or group of children into a lying down position, letting them know that they will be diving into a peaceful oasis within themselves. As the adult, it is up to you to create the setting – perhaps you bring them to the beach with soothing ocean waves caressing the shore, or perhaps they venture into a magical forest where fairies and gentle creatures are very much alive. Through your words, you will guide them into this calming and soothing practice. The visualization only needs to be a minimum of five minutes or so, and after the exercise is complete, invite them to share their experience. Invite them to explain how they felt their energy shifting. How did they feel at the beginning? How do they feel now? As facilitators, this is an incredible opportunity for us to learn as well. We begin to understand how our own tone and energy affects those around us – especially children.
Energy is all around us and the opportunities to explore and understand it are endless. Through mindful activities centered in exploring and discussing energy as it relates to our direct human experience, we contribute to raising healthy and happy children. These sorts of calming practices for kids help them to better relate to the world around and within them, facilitating their ability to live harmoniously, moment to moment.