Mindfulness for Parents
Mindfulness practices are a great way for your child to enhance their well being and their learning. Mindfulness has sometimes been called ‘tuning the instrument of learning’, because it teaches you how to be both focused and relaxed at the same time - it involves learning simple techniques to bring the mind into a state of relaxed attention.. Typical activities that are used include, for example:
- Five finger breathing
- Body scan
- Watching the breath
- Mindfulness bell
Some of these sessions are voluntary and some are part of the curriculum. All pupils will have contact with mindfulness practices within the curriculum, as well as having the opportunity to develop this further at voluntary sessions.
The staff leading mindfulness practices in school have been trained by the charity ‘Mind With Heart’.
Read some of our pupil testimonials about mindfulness sessions here.
Where does mindfulness come from?
Mindfulness practices started in America with the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course developed by Jon Kabat Zinn in the 1970s. Originally based on Buddhist meditation, Jon Kabat Zinn realised that the techniques for developing relaxed attention found in meditation could be adapted to a secular context successfully. The MBSR program was initially developed to help patients with chronic pain and other health conditions, but the techniques were further developed to be used in psychology, education, and business. For example, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed in the 1980s, which focused on helping people with mental health problems including depression.
Since then a large amount of research has been completed in peer reviewed scientific journals, indicating strongly that there are many objectively observable benefits to practising mindfulness meditation. Some of the observable benefits of mindfulness reported include:
- Reduction of blood pressure
- Improvements in sleep
- Improvements in immune response
- Improved cognitive focus, including school performance
- Improved management of emotions
As a result of the research done in the last 20 years, as well as the impact and success of many mindfulness programs around the world, mindfulness has grown to occupy a bigger and bigger place in mainstream health, education, business and public life. There is now a Parliamentary mindfulness group for MPs, for example, with a significant and growing membership, which is chaired by Tim Loughton, our local MP .
Is it meditation?
The answer to this question depends very much on how you define meditation. Mindfulness practices all involve paying attention deliberately to whatever is happening in the present moment. Often mindfulness practices also involve giving the mind a focus, such as noticing your bodily sensations. This has a lot in common with various meditation practices. There are differences between mindfulness meditation and some forms of popular meditation. For example-
- Mindfulness meditation involves taking some time to just be and to notice what is going on - how you feel, what you see etc: It is therefore not the same as using “affirmations”, where a particular thought is repeated e.g. ‘I am feeling peaceful’. We would always encourage the approach that points children in the direction of noticing what they feel and accepting / expressing that
- Although there are some occasions when we might encourage pupils to use their imagination in a mindfulness context (particularly with younger children), generally speaking mindfulness meditations are not about ‘going off’ to a place in one’s mind from which we then ‘return’. Mindfulness is about the here and now, and about tuning in to what is happening here and now.
Guidance for parents - mindfulness resources
Mindfulness resources have grown massively in recent years and there is now a bewildering variety of resources available, especially online. Here are some pointers for parents navigating this.
- Quality mindfulness apps. There are some well tried and tested mindfulness apps which are easily available and come highly recommended. They have well developed programs which can be structured to give you or your child all sorts of different areas of focus. The two we can recommend particularly, as we know them well, are Headspace and Smiling Mind.
- Headspace: a market leader, very well developed with many programs on offer. Headspace has a cost, although you can get a certain trial period free. Headspace is available for families.
- Smiling Mind: this Australian app is excellent and is completely free currently. It also has a well developed set of programs according to age, starting from age 3, which makes it particularly appropriate for school children.There are many other apps which you may like to try, including Calm and Insight Timer.
- Youtube and other video resources online. It’s difficult to generalise about this. Generally speaking, try to avoid material where there is a lot of extra music / sound in the background which might be distracting. If the main focus on the video is sound, then that’s fine of course. Use your common sense as to whether the overall effect is focusing or not. Also use your common sense as to whether you like the way the material is presented e.g. what tone of voice is used?
- School based material. We have a certain amount of material created by staff which pupils and parents can access on the pupils section of this hub.