When we look around us, often times we can be consumed with life’s stressors. The hustle and bustle of daily routines tend to leave us exhausted or even worn. Working in education, looking at the simplicity, innocence and unlimited curiosity of children can leave us feeling envious of childhood. But if we take a moment and hone in on childhood feelings, we will realize that children experience a range of emotions, (positive and negative), and feel stress similar to adults.
As adults mature physically and mentally, we develop coping strategies that help us deal with stress and bring life back to a centered place. Children need to be taught coping strategies that help them do the same.
This year, Westwind counselor, Mrs. Chapman, wanted to create a space to help students develop coping mechanisms to deal with a range of emotions such as anger, anxiety, stress and sadness. The Mindfulness Room located in the main hallway is that designated space furnished with flexible seating, plants, lamps, sensory objects, and space to teach children how to bring balance when they’re feeling out of sorts.
Students use the space for different reasons although the strategies are consistent. One first grade student explained the simplicity of breathing. “We inhale through our nose, hold it for three seconds and then exhale.” When asked how she feels using the Mindfulness Room, she explained, “It makes me feel calm and happy. I feel nervous sometimes, but when I listen to the music and breathe, I feel relaxed and ready to work.”
A second grade student who loves to use the room was asked to describe his experience as he learns to cope with anger and separation anxiety. “I mostly come because I am angry. I don’t like to leave my mom in the mornings. I just come in the room and sit on the bean bag and breathe. I think and tell myself I can do it until I am done. Then I am ready to go to my class.”
Mindfulness is an ancient practice that has proven to be effective (and free)! Mrs. Chapman explains it as taking a moment to stop, pay attention to how you’re feeling, be present, be kind to yourself, and just breathe. She shared that with the increasing number of students who are identified as having anxiety and depression, she wanted to do her part in getting ahead of this epidemic. “I just want to be proactive and provide as many kids with the tools they need to cope with their feelings. I told Mr. Newberry, our campus principal, how important it was to me, and he cleaned out a room and provided space on our campus. The room is not completed yet, but over the next couple of years, my hope is to have a fully functioning and purposeful mindfulness room for students that teachers will frequent like they do the library or computer labs.”
If interested in more information on mindfulness with children, check out some of these books recommended by Mrs. Chapman:
Listening to My Body and Listening with My Heart by Gabi Garcia
I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde
A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh
Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids by Eline Snel
Master of Mindfulness: How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress by Laurie Grossman, Angelina Alvarez, Mr. Musumerci’s 5th Grade Class