Week of February 25, 2019 / 20 Adar 1 5779 Mindfulness in Education and Parenting
In the past two years, I have written about the practice of mindfulness and how it has impacted my life personally and professionally. A huge inspiration has been the work I have done with Larry Schwartz both on my own and with my staff. Many of you attended our recent Parent Coffee and Conversation with Larry and now understand more about the influence mindfulness can have on both our parenting and our teaching.
On February 4, The New York Times featured an article “Schools in England Introduce a New Subject: Mindfulness.” The idea of making emotional regulation and its value a mandatory subject for schoolchildren made me do mental cartwheels! Integrating mindfulness into our lives in this way reflects a large leap forward in understanding mental health and in making it a priority.
As the mother of a teenage girl, I have watched the speed of her life and the demands on her increase each year. Regardless of the mindfulness we exercise in our home and our many attempts to slow the pace, our children are exposed to competing academic and social demands that leave them bewildered, and, at times, distressed. Mindfulness equips them with tools to manage this anxiety and regulate their emotions to remain focused and productive. I wish my daughter’s public school would designate time before tests and big projects to teach students techniques to reduce the pressure they feel and to help them cope with the intensity of school and, frankly, of adolescence in general.
While the children in the PASECC are far from being teenagers, they face real worries of their own that we respect. Some children are learning to sleep in a bed, some are potty training, some are learning to make friends, some are learning to accept a new sibling. You can certainly think of other challenges they meet daily. I am proud to say that our teaching at the ECC aligns with the British government’s recent adoption of mindfulness as a subject in school. For the past two years, our educators have been integrating mindful practices into morning meeting times, transitions, and stair walking as well as into personal interactions with children who are feeling upset, anxious, or involved in a conflict. Taking deep breaths, blowing bubbles, and learning about how our body feels and sounds are all daily routines. These techniques all help children manage emotions and feel comfortable taking risks involved in new learning.
For those of you who would like to learn more about the value of practicing mindfulness, I recommend that you read Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed by Christopher Willard.