Mindfulness Practice helps
inspired by Buddhist traditions, really took root in the United
States after 1979, when Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts.
The practices, which emphasize attention to breathing and focusing
on the present moment, offer many benefits, according to the
American Psychological Association. Those include stress and
rumination reduction, increased focus and less emotional reactivity.
While it's easy to understand how that would benefit the typically
harried adult in this country, it's a little more difficult to
picture a child sitting quietly meditating.
practices are being introduced to children in school settings, and
with good reason.
"I think schools are really stressful for kids," said Tracey
Sparrow, Ed.D., vice president of Children's Programs at the
Milwaukee Center for Independence. "So are social situations and
Mindfulness practice, she said, "gives them a tool to deal with that
At MCFI's School for Early Development and Achievement, Sparrow said
mindfulness practices are taught using the MindUp™ Curriculum, 15
lessons with activities designed to help children concentrate,
manage their emotions, better handle conflicts and have less stress.
MindUp™ is an
evidenced-based, CASEL-accredited social and emotional literacy
program of The Hawn Foundation, founded by Goldie Hawn. "They go
through structured lessons," Sparrow said. "They do a lot of
But if you're imagining a room filled with children sitting
cross-legged with eyes closed mouthing "Om" in unison, you're
picturing it wrong. Sparrow said students will place a teddy bear on
their stomach and watch as it goes up and down with each breath.
"It's a good way for them to get focused."
She said mindfulness practices have even greater implications for
children with special needs, who can learn to self-regulate t heir
For instance, she said an active child with a sensory disorder can
be taught to use breathing techniques to calm down. And once the
practice is learned, that child can, on his or her own, practice it
"Our kids have started, when something upsets them, to step back and
take a breath," said Sparrow.
Research indicates mindfulness practice also enhances executive
function – the ability to plan, organize and manage time.
Academically, that will benefit all children, said Sparrow.
(For more information
on mindfulness applications for children, contact Tracey Sparrow at
MCFI Children's Programs at 414.937.3990.)