Meditation in Schools
There is a new trend in schools nationwide that is gaining more and more momentum. Teachers are increasingly turning to yoga and meditation to help students cope with stress, and to encourage good behavior.
Rather than placing students in detention or suspending them, some schools are sending them to meditation rooms when they misbehave.
Other schools are implementing yoga and meditation programs for all students – not just those who misbehave – prior to starting their school day.
Believe it or not, stress in a big problem for children in school these days. It has been estimated that:
- 25% of teenagers suffer from anxiety disorders
- Millions of children receive medication to tread ADHD
- One in three children are overweight or obese
- Over 6 million students struggle with learning disabilities
- 25% of high school students have been offered, sold, or given drugs while at school
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers
These are very sobering statistics. Additionally, stress is a big problem for teachers and educators, who have very high burnout rates.
Helping kids cope with stress
Living with high levels of stress is unhealthy for kids and teenagers, and it has an extremely negative effect on their school work. School based meditation programs aim to help students cope with the stress they face not only at school, but in their personal lives as well.
A school in Baltimore has partnered with a local non-profit to teach its students mindfulness. It’s goal is to give kids tools to help them deal with anger and stress. To accomplish this, the school incorporates breathing exercises into morning announcements. It also runs a program after school that involves yoga, more breathing exercises, and meditation.
If a student is disruptive, rather than being brought to a detention hall, they are brought to the Mindful Moment Room. There they are led through breathing exercises and have a discussion with a counselor about dealing with their emotions.
This approach is in direct contrast to the more common punishments and “zero tolerance” policies that many schools use. What’s incredible is the results they are getting with the program; the school had zero suspensions in the 2015-2016 school year.
Teachers have also notices a shift in student’s behaviors in general. They observed students turning to words to solve problems, rather than by fighting or lashing out. Many of the students love the program as well, even coming back to participate after school once they have moved on to middle school.
Transcendental Meditation during the school day
Transcendental Meditation is a form of meditation that uses mantras to help you focus as you meditate. Some schools are using this method in their classrooms and are reporting great success. Students sit comfortably with their eyes closed, and spend 15 minutes in meditation twice a day. It does not involve any religion, dogma, or specific philosophy.
There are hundreds of published scientific studies that document the effectiveness of twice daily meditation in improving student’s health and learning capacity. It’s meant to complement already existing educational programs that help improve student behavior.
Recent research has found that meditation yields amazing results. For instance, studies conducted at participating schools found:
- A 10% improvement in test scores
- Students reported greater happiness, focus, and self-confidence
- Overall there was an 86% reduction in suspensions over two years
- Students reported a 40% reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression
- Students felt that their ADHD symptoms were not as prominent
- There was a 65% decrease in violent conflict over a two year period
These are pretty impressive numbers. Clearly meditation and mindfulness practices have a positive effect on the overall health and well-being of kids.
Helping your kids at home
Even though more and more schools are implementing meditation programs, the majority of them don’t have them in place. You can advocate locally to bring more of these programs to your school district, but in the meantime, how can you help your kids? Here are a few tips to starting these practices at home:
- Be the change – Kids mimic the behavior of their parents. If you want your child to start meditating, start a meditation practice yourself. Set up a time during the day, morning or evening, where you all sit quietly and meditate. Make it a family habit, and you will all reap the benefits.
- Practice Silence – Decide that for one day, or even one hour, that you’ll be silent. You may need to start with a short amount of time for very young children, but going about your day in total silence encourages mindfulness. Make it a game for your kids – “Who can be silent for the longest?”. If it’s fun for them you’re much more likely to be successful. When it’s time to break the silence, start with a prayer or song that speaks of love and kindness.
- Start small – Don’t expect your kids to sit down with you for 30 minutes of meditation right off the bat. Many experts recommend one minute of meditation per year of age, starting around age six to eight. Try different times and techniques to find what works best for your child, so that they grow to love meditation and make it a part of their life for years to come.
It is clear that children benefit from meditation, just as adults to. Help to make it a part of their routine, so that they can thrive and find success in school, and in life.