How Mindfulness Is Shaping The Growing Minds
By Andrej Kovacevik
April 2020 - Meditation has been a growing trend for the past few years. With 792 million of the global population experiencing at least one form of mental disorder, meditation has quickly swept across the globe. In the US, the mindfulness industry has reached $1 billion.
In Australia, meditation has become even more popular than yoga. Now 1 in 6 adults practise mediation compared to 1 in 10 for yoga. Our stress levels are higher than ever as there are more triggers including the speed at which new triggers are introduced. 67% of Brits indicated higher stress levels than 5 years ago, with 56% citing 'Christmas Family' as a serious trigger. Even hearty family time during the holidays, Hallmark's favourite way to tug on our heart strings, apparently creates anxiety.
And this trend is not just applicable to the adults. The number of children who meditated grew by over 10 times since 2012. Can you imagine young, hyperactive children meditating regularly? That would be every parent's dream.
The benefits of meditation have been documented scientifically and empirically. However, the focus for the past 5-10 years has been on the adults. There are studies dating back to the '90s about how meditation makes better leaders.
Now, the focus is shifting to children. How does it impact children? How should it be used with children?
Meditation Programs for Kids
In the UK, for instance, the Mindfulness in Schools Project offers a 8-week mindfulness course to educators and schools so they can lead a course for their students. As meditation is not a one-off workshop but more of a long-term elective, many similar programs focus on training the faculties to be able to guide meditation for their students.
Given the development stage and emotional maturity, children initially may struggle more with adopting the practice and seeing the benefits. But schools that have introduced meditation into their curriculum are reporting riveting feedback.
A study found that those who practised mindfulness exhibited better control over emotion and behaviour than 62% of non-practising students. Some schools report higher focus and even reduction in suspension. While each individual school's outcome should be taken with a grain of salt, it is undeniable that meditation has powerful influence in one form or another.
The Call to Incorporate Meditation into Formal Education
Giralang Primary School in Australia ran an experiment to assess the impact of meditation to combat rising stress and anxiety level in children. 1 in 16 Australian youths is dealing with depression and suicide is the biggest killer in the young population.
The outcome was 51% drop in SDQ (Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire) which measures mental health risk in young children. The students also reported positive feedback that they felt calmer and less anxious. Following this study, an Australian parents organisation led efforts to bring mindfulness programs to more schools.
Meditation for Special-Needs Children and Their Caregivers
While meditation best practices and techniques for children are still in an anecdotal phase, one area has been exploring meditation much earlier than the rest of the youth mindfulness field.
A study back in 2012 highlighted the stunning impact meditation has on the caregivers, which include parents and educators, of children with special needs The study indicated a 'medium-to-large effect' on the caregivers' ability to reduce their stress and maintain a higher level of empathy and forgiveness.
As a caregiver of young minds with varying disabilities, they need to manage their own stress levels better than others. Thus, this amazing group of people have discovered how to harness the power of meditation into providing a better environment for these children.
Teaching children with special needs is one of the most rewarding yet challenging jobs. In addition to working with children's check, you must be trained in special needs education followed by practical placement. This is to make sure that anyone in this position will not, consciously or inadvertently, stunt their growth or cause emotional harm. Formally integrating meditation into how we mold the cognitive minds of our future seems to be the direction we're slowly heading into.
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