Spring is in the air and schools are settling into routines after the half term break. As the weather is brightening up, it feels like a good time to reflect on some highlights over the past few months. It’s also lovely to be writing this blog again as it’s been a while.
Since becoming a published author last year, I’ve been on an amazing journey sharing my book with anyone who has a vested interest in supporting children with inclusive mindfulness activities, particularly if they have special educational needs.
Why is mindfulness important for parents and schools? Nowadays, children and young people are under so much pressure to keep up with their friends, live up to their families’ and teachers’ expectations, maintain the trendiest social media profiles and so forth. This of course can take its toll on their emotional wellbeing and mental health, often resulting in heightened anxiety, stress and depression. According to NHS Digital, 1 in 8 children aged 5-19, during 2017, experienced issues with their mental health. Schools have therefore been encouraged to teach and equip children and young people with coping strategies and self-regulation tools to help resolve any difficulties they may experience.
The great news is that the government recently announced that a mental health study is going to be rolled out into schools in England. This will include teaching mindfulness to evaluate its impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing. Lets hope mindfulness is embedded across the school curriculum (not just in PSHE), and this mental health study eventually spreads across the UK and beyond!
Over the past few months, I have been delivering inclusive mindfulness workshops with children and talks to adults in schools, local community settings and event spaces. It’s been incredibly rewarding to put many of the inclusive mindfulness tools and techniques from my book into practice.
A recent highlight was when I delivered workshops in schools during Children’s Mental Health Week. Set up by Place2Be charity, the theme this year encouraged children to find ways to be healthy on the inside and out, by looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.
In one school, during a mindfulness workshop, I worked with a group of young children to create Worry Monsters (see photos above). First, we mindfully explored different feelings using very simple language, then watched a cartoon to witness different characters experiencing these states so we could label them (e.g. happy, sad, excited, grumpy). Lastly, the children were informed that every emotion or feeling is okay and that their worry monsters can ‘gobble them up’ until they are ready to talk to an adult or a friend about whatever is concerning them.
In another school, this time with older kids, during the mindfulness workshops I used this lovely resource (above) from Twinkl to demonstrate a variety of calming strategies to help bring children back into the present moment. First of all, we drew around the body of a student to create an outline of a person. Next, the children were asked to draw or write how they were feeling inside the body. Again, the children were told that every feeling, sensation and emotional state is okay, even the uncomfortable ones. By noticing how these emotions make us feel, we can do something about them. No one can be happy all of the time, so by recognising that it’s okay to have ups and downs, and using coping strategies, it can empower kids to regain a sense of calm at their own pace.
After labelling their own personal emotions inside the body, children were then asked to think about different calming and coping strategies they could use outside of the body (their actions in daily life) to help them feel at peace from within. This is where Twinkl’s resource helped as it provided visual prompts for the kids. Visual examples included taking deep breaths and mindfully counting to ten. The kids were also encouraged to give their own examples of calming strategies, then as a group, we practised them by acting them out.
It’s so much fun to deliver these much needed mindfulness workshops. Experiencing children’s light bulb moments and seeing the difference mindfulness can make to their lives is rewarding. It’s also worthwhile demonstrating to schools that whilst deep breathing exercises, yoga and meditation certainly helps, mindfulness is so much more than that. Most importantly, mindfulness is about cultivating the mindset of being fully present within each moment and allowing ourselves to connect from within to notice what any feelings that come up without judging them. This can include anything from listening to music, going for a mindful walk, colouring in a picture or simply taking a few quiet moments. Over time, and with regular practise, research has shown that mindfulness can make a huge difference to the wellbeing of children and adults alike.
I hope this post inspires you to embed mindfulness into your daily routines and to have fun whilst doing so. If you’d like to arrange a children’s mindfulness workshop, or a session for adults, feel free to get in touch.
Miss H ♥