“Be Happy, Be Kind, Be Brave, Be Strong” ― Claire Peters (The Adventures of Bentley, Otto and Bob: Chicken and Rabbits)
Why Mindfulness for Children and in schools?
As parents and caregivers of children, we all want to see our children happy and healthy. Children are naturally happy, curious, explorers and free. Unfortunately, life stressors also get in the way of our children’s happiness and emotional / mental health. I believe that as parents or caregivers, we have a duty to help our children learn to cope with stress and emotions. Teaching mindfulness to children is a great way of empowering our children to manage their emotions and learn how to be free from stress. I believe it is a basic life skill that each child should be empowered with.
Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in young people drinking more alcohol, taking drugs, and self harming. It is sad and worrying to see that mental health problems among young children has increased. Nowadays, the world is a melting pot of opportunities even for the little ones. So many opportunities to learn, explore, even digitally, which is all good however init is not without problem. Problems such as anxiety, stress, impatience, attention deficit and hyperactivity. As children enter the teenage years, they face more stress, anxiety and sometimes uncertainty as major school decisions are made. Schooling becomes more difficult as they approach demanding as ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels they assume. Some children face fears of ‘not passing their exams’. Mindfulness is one way to help children deal and manage these problems.
The Mental Health Foundation has stated that “Mindfulness practice in schools enables children to recognise and overcome the many ways in which we tend to get caught up in rumination, distraction and resistance. They reveal the inherent ability of the mind and body to rebalance and sustain wellbeing and help us discover positive new perspectives, behaviours and solutions (Mental Health Foundation, 2011)
How can mindfulness help children?
Evidence shows that regular mindful awareness practice changes how our body and brain respond to stress, possibly strengthening connections in the prefrontal cortex and reducing reactivity in our limbic system, supporting self-reflection and self-regulation. These functions play a critical role in education. To learn, a student must engage their prefrontal cortex to focus and monitor their attention and to inhibit impulsive tendencies towards distraction.
Benefits of Mindfulness for Children
- Reduce stress and calm children down
- Understand and manage emotions
- Improved memory, flexible thinking and enhanced performance
- Planning and prioritising especially for the older age, so they can set and achieve goals
- Self awareness
- Learn to empathise and be more compassionate
- Establish and maintain healthy relationships
- Reduces behaviour problems in the classroom and aggression / bullying
- Improves impulse control
- Increased focus / paying more attention
- Improved resilience
- Enhances confidence
- Encourages students to fulfil their potential from a young age
- Improvement in overall wellbeing
How can we practice mindfulness with children at home
In my blog article, I share few examples on how we can practice mindfulness at home with our children. These example are age based activities. Of course, in order for any mindfulness practice to be effective with our children, we must also be living the practice. Children absorb our behaviours.
Research and Evidence
Scientific studies show that mindfulness training develops concentration, attention, executive function, emotional balance, social behaviour, compassion and promotes mental wellbeing. Mindfulness is one way to help tackle anxiety, stress and depression. Scientific evidence is also showing that teaching mindfulness to children reduces behaviour problems including aggression, and improves happiness levels and ability to focus and pay attention.
This is some of the research and evidence that is available for mindfulness in education / for children:
My courses for Children
This 6 week course is based on the Mindfulness in Education (MiE) programmes (https://www.mindfulnessineducation.com) and is accredited by the EFT and Mindfulness Centre. The course is designed to be delivered in schools and also in private setting. The six week course is based on neuroscience and is delivered via powerpoint (child friendly and lively) with interactive practical exercises. Children will also be given a workbook whereby they can record their home practice (10 minutes daily) and other mindful activities.
I run 2 different courses specifically designed for different age needs:
- Age 5 – 11 years
- Age 12 – 17 years
I also teach mindfulness to children on a 1-1 basis, usually in the presence of at least one parent. Parents find that their presence gives them a better insight of what mindfulness is really about. They also find that they can better support and encourage their children with the practice, and of course it encourages them to practice also.
The same 6 week courses have been designed to be delivered in schools. These courses have been delivered in schools in Malta and in the UK.
What will children learn?
The children will learn
- About the brain and how it controls your behaviour
- How to pay more attention to things in life
- Ways to deal with anger, sadness, fear and worry
- Ways to be more in balance
- How to be happier, calmer and more in control
- Ways to be compassionate and empathic
- The importance of gratitude
"What day is it?' asked Pooh. 'It's today,' squeaked Piglet. 'My favourite day,' said Pooh." (Winnie the Pooh)
At the end of the course the children will be able:
- to carry out the mindfulness practices learned in the course including mindful breathing
- Use their senses in a more mindful way
- Carry out mindful movement practices
- Manage worrying thoughts
- To respond rather than react
- Observe and notice their own emotions and how it is effecting them, consequently manage their emotions
- Observe and notice other people emotions and empathise with them
- Practice gratitude
- Also make a glitter jar 🙂
At the end of the course, children will be given a certificate of attendance.
Should teacher and parents know more about mindfulness?
Children absorb their environments, they copy their parents, caregivers and teachers’ behaviour. They learn from us. So if they are brought up in a mindful environment, we communicate with them mindfully, and are present to them and their needs, it would be easier for the child to live mindfully and practise mindfulness.
As a mindfulness trainer in Education, I believe in a ‘whole school approach’ where mindfulness is brought into every aspect of education. It means taking care of the wellbeing of the teachers, staff, and the children, creating a mindfulness environment and community, and explore the relationship between learning and mindfulness. In a nutshell, this means that children can only benefit fully if their teachers practice mindfulness.
If you would like to know more more about the benefits of mindfulness for school staff, please read the following evidence study.
So, if you are here as a parent or educator, and you want to explore mindfulness for you, your partner, or fellow teacher, please visit the Mindfulness for Adults section of this website.