Teaching Kids Early in School to be Mindful of Stress is a Huge Step in Mitigating the Onset of Long Term Depression and Anxiety!

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Students practicing mindfulness…with the aid of a teacher…

Schools are now teaching kids…and parents…how to deal with stress…  Quote from this link…

 October 7

On a recent Tuesday morning at Lafayette Elementary School in Northwest Washington, Sofia Parodi took a coveted seat at the head of the classroom and asked a fellow fourth-grader to switch off the lights.

“Close your eyes and take three deep breaths,” she instructed her classmates, who fell into a familiar rhythm of silently counting their breaths, then sharing their experience with their classmates.

Sofia was the day’s mindfulness helper, a temporary apprentice to Linda Ryden. Ryden is Lafayette’s peace teacher (yes, that’s her title), who leads about 500 of the school’s students in weekly courses on mindfulness — a practice aimed at enhancing self-awareness and reducing stress by focusing, without judgment, on the present moment.

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I have been writing about teaching kids and parents how to be mindful of stressful circumstances both at home, in school, and at play for 5 years now in this blog and through my books.  Just the other day during a stressful meeting as a board member of Neighbors for Kids in Depoe Bay, Oregon, we paused to be mindful as adults of the challenges facing us as community leaders.  Our teachers and mentors practice the same mindfulness exercises with our students each and every day.  We do this to help all of us recognize that we are not alone in feeling the stressful aspects of life and the day to day challenges we all face together.  The practice of “mindfulness stress reduction” (click this link) really works and is catching on more and more in schools everywhere.

During my early life in school, we were silent about stress most of the time…  It was an exhausting and lonely time for many post WWII and Korean War kids who lived in often toxic and violent circumstances at home.  Once in awhile there would be a teacher or mentor who paid special attention to those of us struggling with stress, and tried to help.  For the most part we tried to keep a safe distance from the emotional pain because it was not generally understood during the Post WWII era.  Consequently, and sadly, we moved on to adult life with all this bottled up emotional baggage that had to come out sooner or later…and it did in often tragic ways.

The good news…it is never to late to confront the baggage connected with post trauma circumstances, even after many years of denial or avoidance.  It took me until age 64 to find my way to a path of healing by writing my first non-fiction memoir.  There are many alternative strategies to practice mindfulness stress reduction.  Writing and speaking about the subject has been a gift of peace of mind for me for the first time in my life.  Be kind to yourself and others and learn more about ways to reduce stress through the practice of mindfulness.  I admit it is a work in progress, but has been very effective for so many who stick with it, especially children.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1&2…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

SteveSunriver
Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, and Child Advocate

Does Mindfulness-Based Therapy Help Trauma Sufferers Live in the Moment?

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“Veterans with PTSD who received mindfulness-based therapy reported greater (though modest) improvement in symptom severity than veterans in another form of therapy.”

Mindfulness…”Living in the Moment.”  Quote from this link…

“Mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy teaches people to pay attention to the present moment in an accepting way. Past studies have shown it can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, but could it also provide relief for those who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? A new study finds veterans with PTSD who received mindfulness-based therapy reported greater improvement in symptom severity than veterans in group therapy sessions focused on current problems. Their overall improvement, though, was modest.  PTSD affects nearly a quarter — 23 percent — of all veterans who have returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Left untreated, this condition poses unique dangers to veterans and their families.”

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It is a true story that living in the moment doing the things you are passionate about, including making a difference for others, offers a way to keep the pain of past traumatic experiences at a safer distance and mitigates anxiety about the future.  Some will argue that these healthy distractions achieved through mindfulness-based therapy can keep a person in denial of addressing the root causes of post trauma symptoms.  I say doing both in a balanced way can be effective.  I would rather practice mindfulness therapy than use prescription drugs or alcohol as self medication for the long term.  I also need to revisit and reconcile my own life trauma circumstances as an on-going process to keep a healthy perspective of those early child and young adult years that were so painful living in a highly stressful and sometimes violent home.

In my most recent book, My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, Chapter 4…Teaching Kids Empathy & Compassion…Avoid the dangers of emotional numbness and denial, explores my own experience and resources in helping parents, teachers, and children understand how mindfulness-based therapy can work effectively.  Following is an excerpt from Chapter 4…

As vice chair of Neighbors for Kids, I have the privilege and opportunity to work closely with our staff and the children as part of my role as a board member for this amazing after-school program in Depoe Bay, Oregon.  Our program is growing with many new kids enjoying a very popular summer camp and registering for the start of the new school year.  Our kids become very excited and busy with recreation and academic programs centered in a core learning curriculum known as “STEAM,”  A Framework for Teaching across the Disciplines.   We are also an after-school site for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers project in collaboration with the Lincoln County School District (LCSD).

Our teachers and volunteers take a few minutes before each class to help students relax and refocus…a mindfulness exercise.  The exercise is as simple as staying quiet for 3 minutes with some deep breathing and positive thoughts.  Often children are distracted because of the challenges of socializing and sometimes from sad thoughts.  I could easily see that taking a little time for meditation with the kids helps them get ready for a new learning experience.  The short break between programs also helps us adults do a better job of mentoring and teaching kids as well. 

I have written often about the topic of “mindfulness”  (click highlighted text for video clip) in the context of life after trauma for adults.  But the practice and benefits of meditation or mindfulness therapy definitely apply broadly as a way to relax for people of all ages.  Children in particular get stressed out the same as adults.  We all need a mindfulness timeout a few times a day to stay calm and focused on the joy of living, learning, and growing.”

Take a look at my author page, and download “My Journey Part 2” and other books and resources to explore mindfulness-based therapy.  I have enjoyed far more peace of mind in these later years by becoming highly aware of my own post traumatic stress symptoms, and engaging in a balanced treatment strategy that works.  Each individual must find their own way, or in the case of children, show them the way by practicing living in the moment techniques.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1 & 2…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

SteveSunriver
Steve Sparks, Author, at Sunriver, Oregon in May 2015.