Family life may sometimes seem so far away from Buddhist practice. Don’t meditators all run away from families and sit in forest huts or on mountain tops? This is a very naive view—instead, family life can present wonderful opportunities for practice. Moreover, when we work with children, we have a unique opportunity to teach our children positive messages.

In this video, Phakchok Rinpoche answers questions about integrating family life and meditation practice. Many of us ask how to teach our kids or young relatives and friends about meditation. Or, we wonder how to introduce Buddhist principles to young minds. In this interview, Rinpoche shares his own experience. As a father of two young children, he cares deeply about this subject.

Family Life: Opening your Meditation Practice

We can adopt Rinpoche’s suggestion of a “family retreat”. Here, he explains that he takes his children away with him for less-structured retreats. He leaves his door open and lets the kids wander in and out. Obviously, this requires a balance of discipline and openness.  But, think about how it makes meditation seem very accessible.  Kids are naturally curious and will want to see what mom or dad are doing. By just allowing them to observe, or to sit beside you for a few minutes, they understand that meditation is something you do.

Rinpoche also advises not to try to teach meditation too early. Children need to be ready and to be curious. We don’t benefit them by forcing them to do something. Instead, let it arise out of their own curiosity.

Family life: Demonstrating Buddhist Values

We can benefit children by embodying and teaching Buddhist values. There are so many opportunities to “walk the walk” as we go about our day. We can teach kids to be kind and gentle to animals, for example. Young kids have an innate kindness, and we should encourage and foster that. And we can involve them in helping others—we can teach them to give to those in need. There are so many ways to communicate kindness, generosity, patience, and love—and these are all Buddhist values. If we teach these to our own children, we can be sure we are practicing as good Buddhists!