Mindfulness for children: application in schools

Mindfulness for children: application in schools

In the last decades the boom of the use of Mindfulness techniques has proven its effectiveness in the context of clinical psychology , obtaining favourable results in the intervention of psychopathologies such as depression, anxiety or chronic pain.

In the child population, increases have been observed in the level of stress experienced at school (Currie et al., 2002, Lohausy Ball, 2006; Card and Hodges, 2008) and prevalence rates of certain severe psychopathologies around 20% in the USA (Merikangas et al., 2010).

So much so that not only has Mindfulness for Children continued to be used for this purpose, but it has also been extended to preventive purposes, being used in children as an enhancer of academic performance and emotional well-being . The results of recent research show the correlation between an increase in attention and concentration capacity and the habitual practice of Mindfulness techniques.

As a result, it is essential to determine to what extent these scientific findings are being taken up (and to what extent) in the national and international educational context and, consequently, how they are being implemented in school institutions in the different countries.

The Mindfulness for Children and Educational Centers

In Almansa et al (2014) it is pointed out that the increase in the last decades of the attention deficit in the school population is very significant.

According to FEDAH data, ADHD affects between 2 and 5% of the child population, 50% of the clinical population in this vital range . Therefore, it is very common nowadays to observe educators or family members increasing the state of nervousness, distraction and lack of concentration in children.

The practice of Mindfulness for children in the educational field can be very useful in improving this difficulty, so it is very relevant to analyze the result of research that has been devoted to studying the relationship between both phenomena. In previous research it has been observed how Mindfulness provides benefits at a psychological level in the individual in relation to the changes in mental activity experienced after the assiduous practice of full attention.

To date, there seems to be a general consensus on the successful effects that the use of Mindfulness is achieving in the educational field . More specifically, the benefits point to an improvement in academic performance, in self-concept and in interpersonal relationships, together with a reduction in aggression and violence.

The three areas where the most satisfactory results have been found correspond to the improvement of physical and psychological health, the enhancement of attention span and the promotion of a sense of personal well-being in general.

Implementing Mindfulness Programs in Education

An interesting exhibition has been made by Mañas et al. (2014) on a selection of Mindfulness programs with a significant level of scientific rigor that supports them, which already have an important trajectory on a practical level in the educational field, both nationally and internationally. They are as follows:

At the national level

In the Spanish context, these are the main Mindfulness programs for children in the school environment .

1. TREVA Program: Experiential Relaxation Techniques Applied to the Classroom (López González 2009)

It consists of twelve content units, one of which is the Mindfulness. The results show how the application of the program positively correlates with the students’ relaxation competence, the classroom climate, emotional competence and academic performance .

2. Aulas Felices Program (Arguis, Bolsas, Hernández and Salvador 2010)

It focuses on contents of positive psychology for students in infant, primary and secondary education . Full conscious attention is worked on in order to enhance the conscious capacity, calm, decrease of automatisms and enhance emotional development.

3. Educating with Co-Rason (Toro 2005)

It is a set of procedures that, despite not directly employing Mindfulness techniques, the philosophy on which it is based derives from this phenomenon (breathing or body awareness).

4. PINEP – Training Program of the Full Emotional Intelligence (Ramos, Recondos and Enríquez 2008)

A program that has proven the effectiveness of Mindfulness as a tool to improve life satisfaction and emotional reality, empathy, attention and decrease of intrusive thoughts in preadolescents.

In the international arena

Beyond Spain, the following programmes are worth mentioning.

1. INNER KIDS PROGRAM (USA, 2002)

For primary school children. It is called The New ABCs (Attention, Balance and Compassion). The goals they set out to promote awareness of inner experience (thoughts, emotions and physical sensations), outer experience (people, places and things) and awareness of two experiences together, but without mixing them up.

The program consists of 2 weekly 30-minute sessions and lasts 8 weeks. Seniors take the program for 12 weeks with 45-minute sessions. Among the methodological particularities, games and other practical and recreational activities and lessons are mainly used.

Susan Kaiser, author of the book The Mindful Kids and co-founder of the Inner Kids Foundation published in 2010 an article called A mindful revolution in education where she mentions a series of aspects related to the application of Mindfulness in the classroom.

According to Kaiser there are some requirements to be met, namely: to attend clearly to internal and external experiences; to know how to tolerate the emotional discomfort that it generates and to observe the bosom of one’s own crises, to be able to respond in a compassionate and kind way to ourselves and to others, mainly. This author proposes seven principles to be taken into account when putting into practice Mindfulness in the classroom : motivation, perspective, simplicity, play-fun, integration, collaboration, strategy.

2. INNER RESILIENCE PROGRAM (USA 2004)

Aimed at primary school students and teachers, parents and administrators. This program focuses on learning social and emotional learning through contemplative practice. It includes retreats, personal development workshops, stress reduction sessions and workshops for parents .

In it, emphasis is placed on the subject of neuroplasticity, that is, the changes produced at the level of brain circuitry and anatomy from training in attentional skills, emotional calmness, awareness, insight and caring for others.

3. LEARNING TO BREATHE (USA 2007)

Its main purpose is prevention in adolescents where the social and emotional learning contents are worked through the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction ( MBSR) programme in adolescents . It also includes components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy ( MBCT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Its more specific objectives are aimed at: teaching Mindfulness and providing general well-being; improving emotional self-regulation; enhancing attention; acquiring stress management skills; and integrating Mindfulness into daily life.

The program lasts 6 sessions of between 30 and 45 min . The contents that form the program consist of the work of: body awareness, understanding thoughts, understanding emotions, integration of thoughts, emotions and body sensations, reduction of judgments and integration of mindfulness in daily life.

4. MINDFULNESS IN SCHOOL PROJECTS (MiSP) (England 2008)

Focused on n the adolescent population between 14 and 18 years old . This initiative is based on the MBSR-C and MBCT models and includes as main components: Mindfulness of Respiration, Mindflness of the Body (BodyScan), conscious eating practice, mindful body movements, thought and sound movements and mindful texting.

It has a duration of 9 weeks and has recently been manualized to intervene with highly anxious functioning children (Semple and Lee 2011). In this program, explicit indications and guidance are given to parents to get them involved in the development of the program. Parents were involved in the treatment.

MBSR-T is an adaptation of MBSR for adolescents, in which aspects such as the frequency and duration of sessions and some specific content have been modified to increase its effectiveness, considering the specificity of the adolescent stage in terms of interpersonal and performance challenges. (Biegel et al 2009, Biegel 2009).

5. MINDFUL SCHOOLS (USA 2007)

It is intended for elementary and high school students and s applied in California in a structural way in 41 schools s, mostly with scarce resources. It consists of 15 sessions during 8 weeks and is composed of the elements: mindfulness of sounds, breathing, body, emotions, generosity, appreciation, kindness and care. It also includes content for parents (face-to-face sessions and a materials manual).

6. MINDUP (USA 2003)

It is aimed at primary school students and is integrated into the school curriculum. It consists of 15 lessons in which the following are worked on: social and emotional awareness, improvement of general well-being, promotion of academic success at school.

As a particularity, is focused on the practice of conscious breathing , so it requires the performance of exercises dedicated to this area 3 times a day.

7. STAF HAKESHEV “The Mindulness Language” (Israel 1993)

This pioneering initiative was designed for students between 6 and 13 years old, parents and teachers . The objectives of the intervention are oriented towards the work of body awareness and mind-body practices in order to strengthen: the development of cognitive and emotional skills, the strengthening of attention and awareness of experience, and the acquisition as a habit of a restorative rest to optimise cognitive learning.

The specific contents consist of activities related to breathing, knowledge of the physical limits of the body, body sensations, postures and movements of sounds, emotions and visualization processes.

8. STILL QUIET PLACE (USA 2001)

It is intended for primary and secondary school students, teachers and parents. This program is focused on developing mindfulness to learn how to respond consciously (instead of reacting), enhance peace and happiness .

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It deals with breathing, body movement, thoughts, emotions, loving kindness, walking, yoga exercises, mindfulness practice in daily life and strategies to acquire the ability to respond consciously. It lasts 8 weeks, which are structured weekly with a duration between 45 and 90 minutes.

9. STRESSED TEENS (USA 2004)

It has been proposed for teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18. It consists of an adaptation of the MBSR adapted to the adolescent population MBSR for Teens . Its main elements relate to body meditation, walking meditation, sitting meditation, sitting meditation with heartfulness, yoga, mindful stopping and mindful working at home. It covers 8 weeks of practice and is practiced for 1.5 or 2 hours a week.

10. WELLNESS WORKS IN SCHOOLS (USA 2004)

It is performed with teenagers between 13 and 18 years old. Objectives: stress management, mental health, emotional balance, behavior, willingness to learn. It is a program of between 8-15 sessions, 45-50 minutes each . It works on the exploration of emotions, intentions, objectives, resilience, problem-solving skills.

11. RESPIRA – AWARENESS FOR WELL-BEING IN SCHOOL (Colombia)

Its main objectives are related to the promotion of socio-emotional learning and the well-being of teachers and students and to improve peaceful coexistence for young people and children who are victims of armed violence. It is a multi-component programme that focuses on working with teachers so that they can later transmit it in the classroom. It also intervenes in families in the community.

The RESPIRA program is in a pilot and evaluation phase in Bogota and Tumaco, so there is still little information on scientifically validated final results.

Bibliographic references:

  • Gallego, J., Aguilar, J. M., Cangas, A. J., Langer, A. and Mañas, I. (2014).Effect of a mindfulness program on stress, anxiety and depression in university students. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 17, 1-6.
  • J. Davidson, Richard; Dunne, John; Eccles, Jacquelynne S.; Engle, Adam; Greenberg, Mark; Jennings, Patricia; Jha, Amishi; Jinpa, Thupten; Lantieri, Linda; Meyer, David; Roeser, Robert W.; Vago, David (2012). “Contemplative Practices and Mental Training: Prospects for American Education. Child Development Perspectives (2): 146-153.
  • Mañas, I., Franco, C., Gil, M. D. and Gil, C. (2014). Conscious education: Mindfulness in education. Conscious educators forming conscious human beings. In Alliance of Civilizations, Migration Policies and Education (197-233). Seville: Aconcagua Books.
  • Mañas, I., Franco, C., Cangas, A. J. and Gallego, J. (2011). Increase of academic performance, improvement of self-concept and reduction of anxiety in high school students through a mindfulness training program. Meetings in Psychology, 28, 44-62.
  • Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz S. y Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools – a systematic review and meta-analys. Instituto de Estudios de Salud Transcultural, Universidad Europea Viadrina, Frankfurt Oder (Alemania). Junio 2014 | Volumen 5 | Artículo 603, Fronteras de la Psicología.
  • Zoogman, Goldberg S. B. , Hoyt, W. T. & Miller, L. (2014) Mindfulness Interventions with Youth: Un Meta-Análisis. Mindfulness, Springer Science (Nueva York).

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