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How can we incorporate mindful practices into young children’s daily lives? Why is it important to teach mindfulness?


By Solène

Introduction:

Childhood is a key part in any person’s life. It is a time where we are most susceptible to change and are developing at an extremely rapid rate. Things that we experience as children are carried with us through our teenage years and even into adulthood. Most of us carry memories from childhood that have contributed in shaping us into the people we are today.

Children are very observant and have the tendency to question what is around them. Naturally, children’s observations and curiosity will lead to questions that those around them are tasked with to answer. Children will usually notice when those around them are experiencing complex emotions however, may not understand why this person is upset and/or reacting in the way that they are. 

Teaching young children about mental health is not seen as a top priority by many schools across the globe. Even so, it’s important that we teach children about mental health, healthy coping mechanisms, and start to implement the practice of mindfulness into their lives’ at an early stage. It is important to teach children about mental health, mindfulness, and healthy coping mechanisms at a young age because our childhood is a key time in our development stage and a time where a lot of habits can be created, implemented. These habits can then be carried on throughout the rest of their lives. By teaching kids about mental health and incorporating mindful activities into their lives’ we can teach kids how to seek out help and how to better understand and cope with their emotions. 

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Mental Health disorders in Children

It is difficult to recognize mental health issues in young children as it is difficult to differentiate between a developing child and a child who is facing a greater issue. Young children develop at a fast pace and are experiencing so many changes that it makes it difficult for a parent to see an underlying issue with their mental health. One of the best ways to find out if a child is dealing with a mental disorder is to get them evaluated by a professional. Getting them evaluated by a mental health professional early on can have a really big impact on the child’s life. Most people that struggled with their mental health but didn’t receive an evaluation or treatment as a child have trouble in adulthood as their mental disorder continues to affect their life and they don’t understand it fully. Mental disorders such as, Anxiety, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Behavioral Disorders are just some of the mental disorders that can develop during the early stages of childhood. It is vital that people close with to a child that might be struggling with a mental health disorder are able to observe changing behaviors and or the struggles of that child so that they can be refered to a professional.

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Many schools do not teach their students about mental health until their teenage years, if at all. 

 

This begs the question: What is the best way to teach children about mental health and how to cope with stressful emotions in a way that is healthy and helpful? 

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Mindfulness and the impact of practicing it

Mindfulness is a term used to describe the act of making yourself be fully present with your surroundings, thoughts, and body. Practicing mindfulness can be very beneficial when used consistently.  Nowadays our hectic schedules and chaotic lives lead to a lot of worry about the future and present. Mindfulness focuses on being completely present with yourself and space and is a practice which can help us cope with the stresses of everyday life. When we think of a mindful activity our brains might immediately think of meditating. Even so, a mindful activity is just taking a short or long pause during the day to try and be fully present. Anybody can put mindfulness into practice and most of us probably already practice it without knowing. 

Being mindful has a lot of benefits on our physical well-being such as improving sleep, lowering blood pressure, and helping to relieve stress amongst other things. Practicing mindfulness is also extremely beneficial towards mental health. Nowadays, mental health professionals have started using mindfulness meditation to help treat disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Based off this it comes as no surprise that practicing mindfulness at a young age would be extremely beneficial in one’s life. In fact, many mindful activities that are found on the internet are either geared towards or can be used by younger kids to help them cope with stressful emotions and situations.  By learning to practice mindfulness at a young age we can carry those habits and root message of mindfulness (being present) throughout the rest of our life.

This video gives a scientific explination on how the brain works when we are stressed and how it can be strengthened by practicing mindfulness. 

Activities that practice mindfulness: 

Below is a list of websites that help with practicing being mindful. Anyone can start to practice mindfulness at any age. Even so, you’ll find that some of the websites listed below have activities that are geared towards younger children. 

https://www.waterford.org/resources/mindfulnes-activities-for-kids/

  • 51 mindful activities (suitable for any age). These activities are really interesting because they are not all about sitting down and meditating. 

https://www.mindyeti.com/v2/s/pricing

  • This link will take you to a website called Mind Yeti. You can either sign up for an account or, they offer a YouTube playlist that you can listen to and are on Spotify, Itunes, Vimeo, and Stitcher.

https://www.smilingmind.com.au/

  • Smiling mind is a well-known place where people can practice mindfulness. They also offer an app which many of their current users use.

https://www.headspace.com/

  • Headspace is a great place to practice mindfulness. They offer a lot of guided meditations and their website includes a lot of information on how to meditate and what meditating is. 

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Response:

In what ways can you lend your support to a child that is struggling with their mental health and/or with a mental illness?

One thing you can do as a person to support a child that might be or is struggling with their mental health is to stay observant. Staying observant by noticing any significant changes in the child’s behavior is very beneficial in helping to identify any problems. Also, any significant changes in behavior could be a sign of a developing mental issue. 

(This is a general list of behavior changes that could mean a child is under a lot of stress and/or that they are struggling with their mental health. There are specific signs to watch for when looking at the development of any disorder but this is a more generalized behavioral changes list.)

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What can you do to support a child that is struggling with their mental health as their….

Parent/Guardian: 

  • Have open and honest communication.
  • Make sure their household chores/duties are manageable.
  • Check in on their mental well-being.
  • Stay informed or informing yourself about their mental health issue/s. 
  • Notice their needs and wants.

Teacher:

  • Observe the student’s behavior in the classroom and school. Notice any changes.
  • Cater to their needs when necessary. 
  • Create a positive and safe learning environment.
  • Help other people in student’s life (i.e. parents, other teachers, students, etc.) understand the symptoms and the problem.
  • Create an honest and open discussion between you and the student.
  • Making sure the student can access any support that they might need (e.g. counselors).

Sibling: 

  • Keep and create open dialogue and honest communication between you and your sibling.
  • Make sure your sibling is okay (check in on them).
  • Try and prevent arguments and unnecessary frustration/tension.
  • Stay informed.
  • Set up personal boundaries between you and your sibling.

Friend:

  • Keep honest and open dialogue.
  • Check in on their well-being.
  • Know your own boundaries as well as understand their boundaries.
  • Offer them your help in seeking out a trusted adult.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Do not force them to share things that they do not want to.

These are just some ways in which your could support a child you know that is struggling with their mental health. Even so, there are many other ways in which you could support a child that is struggling and I encourage you to stay informed and seek out sources that talk about how to support some one that has a mental health issue. 

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It is important to stay informed and lend support to your child, student, friend, peer, or sibling that is struggling.

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How can we incorporate activities that practice mindfulness into children’s daily lives to help them deal with their stress?  

  • Teaching kids about mindfulness at school (this is obviously a big task and will be difficult) 
    • By hearing about mindfulness at school kids, especially younger kids will most likely bring that knowledge home with them and get excited to talk to their parents about it. The most important thing is that kids become excited about mindfulness because that excitement will fuel their engagement making them more likely to practice it. 
  • Through having discussions about mindfulness at home.
    • Kids will naturally become curious just by hearing about mindfulness. If they hear it from their parents or siblings they will most likely want to try out some mindful activities.
  • By implementing small mindful activities into their daily routine.
    • By implementing small and short activities at first children have the chance to be adaptable. Then, in the future, these small mindful activities can become habits/second-nature.

Questions to ask yourself:

(please share one or more of your answers to any of these questions in the comments and don’t be afraid to spark dialogue between you and the other visitors)

  1. What are some ways you cope with stress?
  2. How extensive are the lessons (if you have any) on mental health in your school? Do you learn a lot or is a lot of what you’re taught things you already knew? Do the lessons/teachings get redundant?
  3. How do you wish your school taught you about mental health (more discussion-based, informative, etc.)? What topics have they not discussed that you think are important to discuss?
  4. How do you help a friend or family member that is struggling with their mental health?
  5. Do you see yourself as someone who tries to stay present and in the moment or do you find yourself worrying about things that have yet to happen and things that have already happened? 
  6. What are some of your bad habits when it comes dealing with stress? 
  7. How important is teaching younger kids about mental health to you? Do you think teaching them is necessary or unecessary?
  8. What is a bad or good habit that you have when it comes to dealing with your mental health that you’ve carried with you since childhood?

My Citations 

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COMMENTS: 8
  1. April 23, 2020 by Sarah

    1. One thing I always turned to when I am feeling stressed is cleaning. I am not sure why but I have always done this, and I think it is because cleaning makes me feel as though even if I am stressed everything is now organized whether that be something as little as cleaning my room or organizing my life.
    2. My school is fortunate enough to have a lot of discussions and education surrounding topics of mental illness. We are a small private school with teachers who truly care and love their jobs which makes these discussions so much easier. When we first come in as freshmen all freshmen must take a class called freshmen seminar. A lot of different topics are discussed here and mental health is one of them. We also have two big assemblies every year which everyone is required to go to. One assembly is the first assembly of the year and it is literally call the health and wellness assembly. This assembly is an in-depth panel of mental health at the school with many of our nurses and counselors learning about the program. I think it is fair to say we learn a good amount but nothing over the top.
    4. A lot of times if it is not too serious having a friend to simply vent to is the best thing anyone can ask for. So most times I always try to lend that listening ear but if things get too serious it is out of my control and I typically will tell the health department at my school.

  2. April 23, 2020 by Glenda Baker

    Hi Solène,
    Thanks for raising awareness of such an important topic. You bring up a poignant question when you ask us how effectively school’s are teaching young people skills in mindfulness and long term life habits related to well-being. We need to do more. Thank you for sharing your project!

  3. April 24, 2020 by Maria

    1. When I’m stressed I usually paint or draw to center myself and try and put all the stress-energy that I have into finishing the art.

  4. April 24, 2020 by Jana

    Hi Solène! I think you did a great job with your presentation. I found especially useful the overview of the different websites on mindfulness, thank you for that! In my opinion, this is such a huge topic nowadays and we need to bring attention to it, in order to do something about it. When I was doing research for my project, I found out that a huge amount of schools in my country didn’t pay almost any attention to mental health. You stated a point, that we should bring mindfulness to schools. Can you think of a format, that would in your opinion work? Do you think that a weekly session, or short mindfulness breaks or something like this could work? Or have you come across some implementation of mindfulness in schools? I would really like to push this idea even further and create at least a small change in my country and the way things are. Thank you for your presentation, you did a good job!

  5. April 25, 2020 by Alicia

    Hey Solene,
    I loved this. Super informative and brought to light many aspects of mental health education that I’d never considered before. Here are a few of my responses to your questions:
    1. When I’m stressed, I like to take time off for myself to do the things I love, like edit, make films, watch films, read books, or spend time with my friends. All those things really help me in dark times 🙂
    2. My school definitely doesn’t have enough discussion on mental health, all things considered. The most we ever talk about is anxiety and stress, and that is the extent of it. I wish we talked more about more mental illnesses, for obvious reasons. Like eating disorders, addiction, personality disorders, etc. I think there is no doubt a serious need for more open communication about these things.

  6. April 26, 2020 by Heather

    Hi Solene, right now, doing jigsaw puzzles is really helping me when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. I love this question because we don’t talk about it in schools enough to give student ways to understand and manage their feelings. How might you continue advocating for this issue after the conference is over?

  7. April 28, 2020 by Fay Aljasem

    Hello Solene, I really like your project. I feel like the topic that you tackled is a really serious issue, and I really admire how you went by it. To answer some of your questions:
    1- I usually cope with stress by writing down letters
    2- One lesson a week during our first year of highschool

  8. April 28, 2020 by Fay Aljasem

    Hello Solene, I really like your project. I feel like the topic that you tackled is a really serious issue, and I really admire how you went by it. To answer some of your questions:
    1- I usually cope with stress by writing down letters
    2- One lesson a week during our first year of highschool
    .

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