Eight-year-old, Julie, and best friend, Emma, just had a fight at school. Emma took Julie’s favorite barbie doll without asking and Julie keeps thinking how much she hates her friend and wants to pull her hair.
If Julie had the right coping tools, deep breathing and try to talk it out with her instead of immediately thinking mean and hateful thoughts, she might realize that her friend probably didn’t realize taking the doll without asking would hurt Julie so much.
Stress is a natural part of life, including childhood. Even children who have not suffered adverse childhood experiences (such as a dysfunctional home, poverty, abuse) may struggle with frequent “mismatches” between the severity of a stimulus (a routine pop quiz) and their response (loss of peripheral vision, sweating, nausea, terror and immobility). In children suffering from trauma, these “mismatches” become chronic and habitual.
Family & Children’s Services is bringing meditation, yoga and mindfulness training into their school-based programs, and the results are amazing.
During recess one afternoon, Candice Stine, Principal of Robertson Elementary witnessed something extraordinary. Some of the 5th graders that had been taught mindfulness, were teaching their peers the yoga poses they had learned. Instead of fighting and gossiping, these students were channeling their energy through teaching their peers yoga.
“At Robertson Elementary, we had a great need for mindfulness in our school. Family & Children’s services have been such a huge help to us,” said Stine. The impact of implementing mindfulness was almost immediate and then need continues to grow. “There was a 3rd grade boy that came to us with a lot of emotional baggage. He was disrupting his classroom and his teacher. He started seeing the FCS therapist and within weeks he had learned how to cope with his struggles,” said Stine. Instead of detention, suspension, or sending children to the Principal’s office, they attend a mindfulness class. When they enter this room, they learn yoga, meditation, breathing techniques and addition strategies. The kids love it and Robertson Elementary has seen a positive difference in the students and their behavior.
Tara Carr, principal at Hamilton Elementary, explained how mindfulness has benefitted her students. “Before FCS, we didn’t have anyone to lead mindfulness groups and we were understaffed to provide counseling services,” said Carr. “We rely heavily on partnerships such as the one we have with FCS. We love having Family & Children’s Services in our school because they are transparent, they meet the needs of our community, offer help to our teachers and most importantly the needs of our students,” explained Carr.
At Hamilton Elementary, they have two mindfulness interns that come to the school on Tuesdays to do mindfulness exercises with the children. “It is cool to see some of our more frustrated children learn how to relax,” Carr points out. “If someone were to ask me if they should put family and Children’s Services in any school I would say absolutely!” Carr exclaimed.
More teachers are starting to teach mindfulness in their schools. Mindfulness has many personal benefits such as reduced stress and positive attitudes. Studies find that children benefit from learning mindfulness in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well-being. Practicing mindfulness may lead to long-term improvements in life.
The hope for mindfulness in schools is that children will respond in a positive way. Family and Children’s Services provides direct support to the children in these schools. Family & Children’s Services is embedded in 41 schools, 4 school districts, 13 head-start sites and we continue to grow and expand our services to schools needing our services.