There is a very good reason why, over the past two decades, mindfulness training has become standard practice in the west in professional practices, such as medicine and in education. Toxic stress — stress that makes us sick instead of more productive — has become widespread, and mindfulness practice helps cultivate focused, non-judgmental attention on the moment we are in, which helps combat unnecessary and damaging stress.
As it is incorporated into independent, value-based education, mindfulness helps children learn and practice the skills that help reduce stress and contribute to learning important skills, like self-regulation, emotional awareness, empathy, and tolerance. The benefits of mindfulness training for children is undeniable. For more than a decade, studies have proven again and again that the cognitive, psychological, and social benefits of regular practice include improved mood, decreased stress, and improved social and academic skills.
Mindfulness in Independent Schools
Because independent schools are focused on the overall wellbeing of their students, not just in academic achievement, it is easier for schools like Mizzentop to incorporate mindfulness practice. So much so, that we don’t even have to call it mindfulness. It takes many forms in our students’ lives, from using deep breathing to create calmness and prepare to focus on an exam, to spending time outdoors, focusing on what our environment feels, smells, and sounds like.
How Mindfulness is Learned
Learning to be mindful happens the same way for children as it does for adults. Luckily, the earlier you start, the easier it is to maintain a mindfulness practice throughout your life. In a moment of stress, simply knowing how to focus attention on breathing, and to shut out any unnecessary or destructive distractions, can help students struggling with social anxiety overcome problems that may otherwise follow them their whole lives. And, learning to be aware of a tendency to wander and not pay attention to a lecture or lesson, or even a conversation with another student, can provide tremendous interpersonal and academic benefits.
Consider the Difference
If children are struggling with understanding or managing their emotions, if they are having a hard time interacting appropriately with others, or if they just can’t seem to focus on their schoolwork, they can seem defiant, argumentative, and unruly. They aren’t. They are just struggling to learn the things we all had to learn. And, every child needs to learn at their own pace. By learning to practice mindfulness, even very young children can bring themselves back into emotional and mental balance, identify and understand the struggle they are having, and attempt, in an appropriate way, to improve. Wouldn’t you rather your child be reminded to take a deep breath and focus on the moment than be sent to the corner for a time out? We know that’s what we prefer. Helping our students understand what they are experiencing and giving them the tools to modify their own behavior is much more productive for us and for them than the alternative of handing out punishments.
In our second article in this series, we’ll explore more about how and why mindfulness should be part of your child’s journey. Learn more about Mizzentop Day School. Schedule a visit today. We look forward to meeting you and your child.