Mindful Kids: How Mindfulness Meditation Can Change the Classroom

We got a lot of heartfelt responses to our last blog post about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Judging from the words of comfort, it’s clear that the community of Newtown, CT is still in our thoughts and prayers.

Reading through the comments, I noticed that a number of people mentioned a need for our children to have access to mindfulness in the classroom.

As Suzy from Colorado put it, “I want mindfulness to be part of the grade school curriculum. Believing in yourself and encouraging positive self-concept in the early years might decrease the possibility of these horrific tragedies that seem to be plaguing our country and our world.”

And there is, in fact, a spot of hopeful news on that front.

Children are being exposed to mindfulness earlier and more frequently . . . thanks, in large part, to mindfulness experts like Susan Kaiser Greenland.

Susan is the co-founder of Inner Kids, a program designed to teach children valuable mindfulness skills in the classroom.

In the video below, Susan gives us a snapshot of what a mindful child looks like, and tells us why teaching mindfulness to kids can help them be more flexible, resilient, and steady.

She also shares insight on how to tailor meditation for different age groups. Check it out – it’s only four minutes long.

When people first start experiencing the calming effects of mindfulness, it’s not uncommon to hear them say they wish they’d learned the practice sooner.

Just imagine how different life might look if we formed the habit of mindfulness at an early age.

Have you ever integrated mindfulness into your work with a young patient? If so, please share your experience in the comments.

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19 Comments

  1. Beth says:

    Hi,

    I am currently researching how to put some information together for pre-school parents regarding raising a mindful child. I currently use meditation and yoga in my pre-school room with 4 and 5 year old’s but would be interested to hear of any ideas of how to support parents with this concept. As a student at Macquarie University in Sydney I am required to link professional advice to an online information page “Storify’ for parents. I feel that early childhood is a critical time for supporting self-regulation skills and to raise family’s awareness of mindful practices would bring positive outcomes to their children’s future learning, development and happiness. Any advice towards helping younger children become mindful would be appreciated.

    Beth

  2. Val Blachly. Mindfulness/Yoga Teacher. Warner, NH says:

    Hi,
    I am working with a 6th grade girl who is Emotionally Disabled in a public school setting. After 4 weeks of rekindling our relationship, she is beginning to willingly sit in quiet and just notice for 1 minute. I went into this without any expectations, not trying to persuade her, but just waiting for her to show interest. It seems she is beginning to try some mindful practices.

  3. Sally Palmer says:

    I’m very interested in bringing this to the school system in Massachusetts and cannot get out to California in February. Will this conference be held in the Boston area?? Susan, is there someone you can refer me to that I can work with to learn and practice here?

    Do any of your books have study guides and workbooks for classroom activities?

    Thank you.

    • Della says:
    • Leidy says:

      I don’t even know what to say, this made things so much eaiser!

    • Rosemary says:

      Hi Sally. The Bridging the Hearts and Minds…….. conference is sponsored by UC San Diego so it will not be in the Boston area. That being said, many of the speakers give presentations all over the country/world so you might be able to find a conference in your area.

      I am in my second year of teaching mindfulness to my 3rd graders. I have done, and still do, lots of reading about this, but better than that, I can tell you that it makes a world of difference in my classroom. I have 36 students and we practice together. We use formal practices and also spontaneous practices. When the energy level gets a little too high in the classroom, my students respond very well to a short breathing practice.

      You might be interested in an online course taught by Dr. Amy Saltzman. I have taken it, and recommend it highly. You can find out about it if you google, Still Quiet Place. Hope this helps.

  4. David Okeke says:

    I find your programm very helpful.
    Keep on with your nice work

  5. yes! i have had the privilege of teaching children of all ages what i call, “sensory awareness,” for many years as both a clinical and school psychologist (and SEP) – in schools and in private practice. as an educator i prefer the term sensory awareness because of the already accepted paradigm in schools for children with autism – “sensory integration” – educators accept this term and more readily accept sensory awareness as opposed to meditation or mindfulness – but of course, it is the same thing depending upon your definition of mindfulness and/or meditation. my K-12 curriculum is now in schools around north america. it is called brain charge: sensory awareness for student achievement. we are already getting rave reviews anecdotally and will have our data at the end of this school year. learn more about all of this at drmelrose.com. thank you for your work.

  6. Ellen Wieler says:

    Hello, I’m very touched to read and hear about mindfulness with children, because without really knowing it I think I have been using principals with my children quite a lot. I am working through my own childhood trauma and find it extremely important to give children the chance to notice what is going on inside of themselves and outside of themselves. I am really interested to learn more about how to support children in that direction. Thanks a lot for bringing up the topic, but it is very sad, that tragedies happen until we go deeper into what kids need nowadays. That is just the way things are. And thanks to all the people already working with those in need!

    • Valentina says:

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  7. Lara Veon says:

    I incorporate mindfulness in almost every session with my clients in some way. I’ve found children resoundingly respond to mindfulness through yoga-based therapy, breathwork with creative tools and expressive arts. When working with children on their process of cultivating awareness of their inner experience, I’ve observed their fear of emotions and re-activity decreases while their power over their own ability to emotionally regulate increases. I also recommend for educators and clinicians in schools the book Cooling Down Your Classroom by Carla Tantillo of Mindful Practices. I work with Mindful Practices in addition to my clinical practice, and the curriculum they provide to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into an educational environment is excellent and timely.

  8. Marty says:

    This is the best description of the power of the breath.

    Just this one little thing, the breath, delivers all the wisdom in the world. Each inhalation powers your strength, endurance, and concentration; each exhalation releases your resistance and fears. When we bring our agitated minds into focus by following the movement of the breath in and out of the body, we experience the reality of the present moment, clear from confusion and anxiety. The breath is fearlessness personified. That can matter a great deal to you in times of pain and panic. Focusing on the breath is the safest, surest way to overcome fear and let the immediacy of any experience move forward.

    Karen Maezen Millar, Breath is Fearless

    Why not take the abstract, the cognitive away from our practice. The mind works best with a simple, concrete idea. if you have an anxiety or PTSD then your mindfulness practice must handle the shock of the adrenal stress response. Tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skills, cognitive distortion, cortisol and adrenaline dumping explodes into our nervous systems.

    http://ptsdawayout.com/2012/05/29/which-one-will-hold-up-when-trauma-explodes/

    kids will do much better with a simple defined task before an abstract counting the breaths model. You can work with eyes open at first and know exactly what the goal and practice is all about. maybe even fun.

    • Amenze says:

      We stumbled over here from a dirnefeft web address and thought I mightcheck things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to going over your web page yet again.

    • Takashi says:

      susie specter – Oh my gonsoeds! amy you are a goddess! So absolutely radiant and gorgeous. The photos are lovely! Can’t wait to meet little baby girl! I want to come over and see your place, it looks beautiful! Lance- Chuck will consult with you any time on Daddy issues! Luv, Susie

    • Umang says:

      yesterday I when I was in bed I did breathing there again and it is alawys the same phenomena. First I check my breath to be balanced and it is soft and easy. The moment I breath from there is get immediately hard to breath nearly impossible to get air in for the first moments.. then it takes a while where pressure gets slowly less and less and until breath is soft and balanced again .. it is a miracle for me and experiencing this gave me so much trust that I continued to spot some other area in my body where I had pain and I also felt there some release ..

  9. Marty says:

    Maybe we could leave all the connotation stuff behind us and help them activate their parasympathetic nervous system while focusing in the breath. I have a model so kids can follow the breath with their finger as they I have, pause, exhale and pause.

    you can just practice with little Instruction.

    This is the basic building block to relieve stress, let go of Intrusive thoughts and emotions, along with building resiliency in the nervous system. Make it basic, simple, concrete and leave the abstract out of the equation.

    http://ptsdawayout.com/2012/12/19/the-brakes-for-our-nervous-system/

  10. Niki says:

    Mindfulness can be a good tool to use in certain circumstances. But please, lets remember not to use this without proper understanding, which only comes through in-depth reading. I doubt that an 8 wk course of Mindfulness, without a healthy home life, would have impacted certain children, like Adam Lanza or the people involved in mass shootings.
    Alice Miller wrote about the positive effects of a healthy role model in a child’s life, even a teacher, therapist, uncle or friend. But that needs to be consistent and coupled with Mindfulness could be powerful tools to deal with trauma, for both survivor and those that commit anti social acts.

    • hi niki. thank you for your comment. please know that “proper understanding” comes much more from having the experience than from reading about it. the neuroscience gives us much more hope than your comment suggests, and i have seen first hand, for many years, how quickly these kinds of tools change the affect and behavior of children of all ages no matter their environmental/interpersonal situation. i agree with you that healthy role models on a consistent basis are essential. yet i do want to make sure more people understand THROUGH EXPERIENCE how quickly these tools begin changing neural pathways for greater self-regulation and peace (even when the only consistent role model they have is the person teaching the tools!). it is only experience that changes the brain, not words or books, or talk therapy. i urge more people go through the 8 week experience than read about it. thanks again, niki. your important comment has given me the chance to make this point. (www.drmelrose.com).

  11. Oh to help our children get through this tragedy and connect to something stronger and healthier within themselves… I hope this conference will be a huge success and help to further the healing we all need.

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