Including Mindfulness In Social And Emotional Learning

Weather (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parenting through the winter break…

National news stories for the past month have featured the winter snow storms (blizzards) that just keep coming. The northeast in particular has been impacted, but the Midwest has had record storms and low temperatures and now even the southeast is in the midst of some brutal weather.

You may wonder why we are highlighting the weather today; well, it’s because when the weather prevents families from moving through their days in a normal fashion many parents find themselves in the midst of a crisis trying to juggle childcare, work, and routine tasks. Children look forward to snow days, but not when the temperatures dictate staying indoors. Cabin fever will soon set in as parents and children alike search for relief.

What if mindfulness exercises could bring relief?

New study examines mindfulness training for children ages 9 and up

Yes, you read correctly researchers want to know how mindfulness training works for young school aged children. In January 2015 the journal Developmental Psychology published “Enhancing cognitive and social-emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial.” 

The researchers used 99 4th and 5th graders in British Columbia to conduct this trial. They randomly assigned the children to two groups. One group would receive their regular social and emotional learning (SEL) program enhanced with mindfulness training, while the other group received the standard social responsibility program. The study examined stress physiology, self reports of well being, peer acceptance, math grades and executive functions.

So what did the results show us?

In the January 26, 2015, online edition of TIME Magazine Mandy Oaklander reported the following:

The results were dramatic. “I really did not anticipate that we would have so many positive findings across all the multiple levels we looked at,” says study co-author Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, a developmental psychologist at the University of British Columbia. “I was very surprised,” she says—especially considering that the intervention took place at the end of the year, notoriously the worst time for students’ self-control.

Compared to the kids in the social responsibility program, children with the mindful intervention had 15% better math scores, showed 24% more social behaviors, were 24% less aggressive and perceived themselves as 20% more prosocial. They outperformed their peers in cognitive control, stress levels, emotional control, optimism, empathy, mindfulness and aggression.

In the February 16, 2015, hard copy of TIME Magazine Mandy Oaklander offers a quick overview of the above study and some others, see Wellness: Mini Meditators, page 54.

Some closing thoughts…

A number of our staff are skilled in mindfulness training to treat mood disorders, chemical dependency and trauma. Over the past couple of years we have published posts about mindfulness and we often write about parenting and family issues.

If you are a parent then most likely you are eager to learn about new ways to aid your child or children to engage with others in a healthy way and to succeed in school with less angst. Parenting is a journey that often comes with detours, hopefully each detour is a healthy learning experience. The conversation has started and mindfulness is now a serious part of that conversation.

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