Teaching Jala Neti to children is not difficult and will equally have the same benefits as for adults, but certain care must be taken so as not to give them bad impressions about it beforehand or through an abortive first attempt.
Depending on the age and breathing control of the child, Jala Neti must initially be done "to them" until they are skillful enough to hold their own pot. We have performed Jala Neti on children as young as 2 years. If started at this age, by age 5 they can reasonably perform it themself unaided. Up to about age 8, their little nostrils don't need quite so much water as an adult and so the technique is reduced in both time and water flow.
The major problem with children, is that element of fear. If you have a trusting child it is easy. But if, for example, they have had a bad swimming experience, it can be nearly impossible to get them started. They can also have a disgusted attitude to such things if their grandparents, parents, teachers, peers or society have given them a revulsion to body fluids. A parent who does not do Jala Neti on a daily basis has no place trying to get their child to do it, no matter how much the child might need it. A therapist or non-family member would not usually have the trust of most children to teach it either. So we have found the best method is as follows:
(i) Before asking them if they might like to try it, let them see you doing it on a regular basis. Be totally cool and calm with the technique yourself and mention all the nice things it does and how good it feels. Just wait until they show a positive attitude of inquiry. The worst thing a zealous yogic parent can do is to force a child to do something prematurely, which may be "good for them", but from which they will just grow up resenting "that weird thing my parents made me do as a child".
(ii) If one day they become positive, offer them a go. On this first occasion do not try to get a full and proper performance or flow through. Show them the mixing method - they may like to do it for themselves; let them taste and spit; put the nose cone into one nostril and seal it well; check that they have their mouth open for breathing and that they understand not to breathe through the nose or to sniff through the nose once the nozzle has been placed in the nostril. Then just tilt their body, their head and the pot enough to fill their nose with water just for few seconds. Make sure their nose is lower than the chin so that the water cannot run towards the throat. After a few seconds withdraw the pot - you don't need to wait for a proper flow through. Say "good, well done". Before changing sides they should gently blow out the water. Do the same brief attempt on the other side. After that, teach them the drying method as per normal and tell them that "that was a good effort for today". Ask them if they would like to try it again tomorrow. Whatever they decide, let it be honoured and not force fed to them.
(iii) You should do this "false Neti" for the first few attempts checking that they are always happy and comfortable to go this far, and that they will be able to mouth breathe correctly when water flows all the way through. Even this simple "nose washing" can help with clearing mucus and give children freer nose breathing. Eventually you will have their confidence enough to let the water flow through fully for a longer period and they will actually look forward to the benefits of the technique and performing it for themselves when a little older.
The same advice applies towards problems encountered when teaching children as with adults. See Pages 36-40 in the Jala Neti Booklet for troubleshooting.
A couple of other points are worth mentioning here are:
Diet - Be especially aware of the relationship between a child's food intake and their mucus conditions. Children would not necessarily notice the after affects of certain foods as well as adults and therefore not register the cause and effect of mucus producing foods. Therefore to investigate any fluctuations in nasal conditions you need to monitor their nostril clarity from time to time.
Mouth Breathing - Pointing out to children when they are mouth breathing and reminding them of the feeling of cleanliness following Neti will help re-pattern the mouth breathing habit.
Sniffing and Blowing - Many children get an early habit of sniffing their problem runny noses instead of blowing. Remember, Neti is a cleansing OUT process so therefore help them to express and blow mucus rather than suppress and sniff.
Structural Problems - If regular nasal cleansing does not seem to help clear nasal blockages, a structural problem may exist. It is always advisable to have this possibility checked out by a medical practitioner earlier in their life rather than later so that the problem can be fixed and not develop into a lifelong habit of poor breathing and respiratory problems. You can use Jala Neti as the first stage of investigation into the cause of their nasal problems.
After Effects - Kids can get a bit spaced out or "stoned" from Neti. They may go very quiet for some time. If this happens don't worry. They will just be enjoying the increased visual stimulation it gives. Some children with a history of bad diet, mouth breathing or chronic mucus congestion (just as with some adults) may take months to get full flow-through. Sometimes, even after months of daily Neti, dark, thick mucus is expelled. This is just "historical cleansing". Don't worry, just keep going.
Home Page: - An Introduction and its Applications
The Links Page: For Finding Teachers and Neti Pots
Learning Jala Neti: - How to, and how not to, do it
Our Library of Articles: on Nasal Cleansing