How My Son's School Is Using Mindfulness To Help Kids Learn

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 
meditation in the classroom
via Joelle Wisler

Do you want to know how to help your children handle stress, learn more easily, and pause for one second before they act like total jerks? Um..yes. Would you like a method that helps them regulate their emotions, focus more, and have better impulse control? YES, PLEASE.

It’s no secret that our modern world is stressful. In 2015, the American Psychological Association reported that 25% of adults said that they were extremely stressed, and another 50% were moderately stressed. Not surprisingly, since kids live with these stressed-out adults, anxiety in children is on the rise as well.

Meditation or the act of practicing mindfulness has been quietly and consciously making its way into mainstream America. With solid research out there showing that meditation can actually physically change brains, it has also been finding its way into our schools in the hopes that it will help our children better deal with the stressors of our modern world.

One study done by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School found that in only eight weeks, meditation was found to increase the gray matter in people’s brains that is responsible for learning, cognition, and emotional regulation. Additionally, they saw that the gray matter decreased in areas that are involved in fight-or-flight and mind-wandering.

These are brains, changing their shape, by simply sitting quietly while trying not to think thoughts. Just think about that. Or don’t, I guess.

What this all means for us as parents is that the simple act of meditation can possibly help our kids feel less stressed, learn better, and be kinder to each other. All I’m wondering is why this wasn’t in the parenting manuals I had to read before I was able to take my kids home from the hospital. Oh wait — there weren’t any parenting manuals! Dear hospitals, please make parenting manuals.

Welcome to Boulder county. I live in a small mountain town where there is a grant being used purely to ensure that our kids learn social and emotional skills. The grant was brought about by my community’s grassroots efforts, but federally, more and more states are requiring that children are being taught these highly important skills. I mean, it seems like a no-brainer that we want kids to learn how to get along and how to handle their emotions, right? Right.

In my town in Colorado, in an effort spearheaded by Ann Sherman, a parenting matters coordinator, and Patti Schrader, a certified meditation instructor, my community decided that the meditation findings from Harvard were important enough that our kids should be benefiting from having their brains changed early — in grade school, you know, before they become teenagers and decide we don’t know what we’re talking about anymore.

Taking cues from success stories in schools from Detroit to San Francisco, Patti will begin bringing mindfulness to my child’s grade school through three-minute meditation exercises done over our school’s intercom each morning. This begins next week, and I couldn’t be more excited.

These are the different ways that other schools have shown meditation helps:

1. Decreases stress

2. Improves ability to learn

3. Improves focus

4. Improves emotional regulation

5. Social climates improve

6. Grades improve

If it helps my son remember where he put his shoes, I’m calling it a success.

While we’re at it, we should probably work on changing our own brains. It’s not difficult to find a bunch of different guided meditations out there that you can do with your entire family. So, happy meditating everyone, let’s all grow our brains.

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