Mindfulness for Children and Young People
There is a growing research base both in schools and in clinical settings, and with a wide range of ages and numbers of participants, which suggests that mindfulness training is well worth doing in schools. I’ve been using mindfulness in my Psychotherapy Practice for several years now and have seen the benefit Clients get from the practice, first hand. I firmly believe our youth need this in their lives, for use as a healthy mechanism to cope with the challenges of life’s transitions. And so I’ve been doing the formal training to teach mindfulness in Schools. There are a number of programmes to suit students at different stages, literacy levels etc Also an introduction to mindfulness for parents, teachers, clubs, groups etc…
Recent studies conclude that for schools to engage in mindfulness is likely to have beneficial results on the emotional wellbeing, mental health, ability to focus and learn and even the physical health of their students. Such interventions are relatively cheap to introduce, have an impact fairly quickly, can fit into a wide range of contexts and above all are enjoyable and civilising, for pupils and staff.
What is the programme ?
It’s interactive and a fun, engaging and useful ten-session mindfulness course for young people, adapted from the adult courses Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy. It has been evaluated positively by the University of Cambridge and Oxford Brookes, and can be used in a wide range of contexts and age ranges. And, at last, I’ve completed my .b training to teach in Education.. So Exciting! Yes I’m booking now to bring the .b course to a school near you.
Two recent systematic reviews in the field, that bring all the studies together, have concluded that the results of the work that have taken place are feasible and promising (Burke 2009; Harnett and Dawe, 2012). The consensus is that interventions are generally acceptable and well-liked by the participants, and there have been no reports that any of them caused harm (so called ‘adverse effects’).
Well conducted mindfulness interventions have been shown to be capable of addressing the problems of the young people who take part, and improve their wellbeing, reduce worries, anxiety, distress, reactivity and bad behaviour, improve sleep, self esteem, and bring about greater calmness, relaxation, and self-regulation and awareness. Adolescents who are mindful, either through temperament or training, tend to experience greater well-being; and mindfulness correlates positively with positive emotion, popularity and friendship- extensiveness, and negatively with negative emotion and anxiety (Miners, 2008).
Mindfulness has also been shown to contribute directly to the development of cognitive and performance skills in the young. When children and young people pupils learn to be more ‘present’ and less anxious, they often find they can pay attention better and improve the quality of their performance, in the classroom, on the sports field, and in the performing arts for example. They often become more focused, more able to approach situations from a fresh perspective, use existing knowledge more effectively, and pay attention.
Some key recent pieces of research
The following is a very brief selection of studies undertaken on mindfulness that is most relevant to schools. It excludes work which is purely qualitative (i.e. based on interviews), with very small numbers of children and with preschool children. It should be emphasised that some of these studies are small scale and not always conducted to the highest standards – nevertheless they add up to an increasingly convincing and growing body of evidence.
Studies in school contexts which focused on Emotional Wellbeing:- Hennelly (2011) looked at sixty eight adolescent students aged between 14 and 16 from typical, mixed-gender secondary schools who followed the full .b eight week course. There were significant differences between participant and control groups’ mindfulness, resilience and well-being, with longer term effects being even greater than immediate effects. Students, teachers and parents also reported subjective improvements in students’ motivation and confidence, competence and effectiveness.
Studies in clinical contexts which focused on Mental Health:- Bogels et al (2008) evaluated the impact of mindfulness on a group of adolescents diagnosed with attention and behaviour-control deficits.
They reported significant increases in personal goals, sustained attention, happiness and mindful awareness; changes that were ratified by their parents.
Studies in school contexts which focused on Learning:- Semple et al. (2010) assessed the impact of a 12-week group program based on MBCT in 9 to 13 year old children who were struggling academically. Significant improvements were found on measures of attention and reductions in anxiety and behaviour problems compared to those who had not yet had the programme.
Beauchemin, Hutchins and Patterson (2008) looked at the feasibility of, attitudes toward, and outcomes of a 5-week mindfulness meditation intervention administered to 34 adolescents diagnosed with learning difficulties. All outcome measures showed significant improvement, with participants who completed the program demonstrating decreased state and trait anxiety, enhanced social skills, and improved academic performance. The authors hypothesised that mindfulness meditation decreases anxiety and negative self belief, which, in turn, promotes social skills and academic outcomes.
Any questions? Thoughts or Suggestions? contact me at www.choosecounselling.com or at 086 240 4990