It's that time of the year when summer feels like it went way too fast and the school year feels like it’s coming way too soon!
While you take in the last of the unscheduled summer days and contemplate where to locate last year's backpack, consider two additional items to put on your child's Back-to-School To Do list: Mindfulness and Empathy.
In a nutshell....
Mindfulness is an awareness I have about what's going inside for me. My thoughts, feelings, surroundings, sensations.
Empathy is an awareness I have about what's going on inside for you. Your thoughts, feelings, surroundings, sensations.
It's not difficult to teach our children about what it means to be mindful and empathetic, but if we model these skills for them......and I'm referring to WE meaning caregivers, loved ones, teachers, neighbors, community leaders, role models......then of course it's more realistic to expect our children to be mindful, empathetic individuals, filled with kindness, compassion, understanding, patience and focus.
Adults often ask children to pay attention and focus.....but most children have never been taught or modeled how to pay attention and focus.
Mindfulness might just be the right tool! The purpose in teaching and modeling mindful practices is to notice what is happening in the present moment. This form of attention or awareness can be applied during any activity throughout the day (seeing, hearing, walking, eating, playing, test-taking, etc).
The benefits are plentiful. Mindfulness has been proven to strengthening positive human qualities like empathy, kindness, generosity and compassion, while:
- Increasing focus and concentration (especially with increased use of technology)
- Increasing self awareness (recognize emotions, feelings, calm/grounding)
- Increasing emotional regulation and balance
- Reducing of anxiety/stress
- Increasing empathy and understanding of self and others
- Increasing skillful response to difficult emotions
BUT one of my favorite benefits is that mindfulness provides a tool for creating 'space' for a child between their big feelings and reactions. This space allows a child to respond thoughtfully as opposed to an impulsive instant reaction.
My mindful classroom partner Sara Staley and I have both been trained by Mindful Schools to bring mindfulness into the classroom. We have the great privilege of sharing mindfulness with students throughout Marin County. Students can benefit in all the above ways from mindfulness, while the schools receive a complement to their existing social and emotional programming.
Empathy is the awareness of another’s perception. Contributing to emotional stability, it builds resilience and social relationships. All great things for our kids!
Perhaps best described by one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown gives a heartfelt plea for empathy fueling connections in a fast paced, technologically driven society that too often fuels disconnection. With no judgment, empathy is rooted in support.
Additionally, teaching and honing this important skill is beautifully explored by the founder of the website Parenting Science and renowned anthropologist, Dr. Gwen Dewar. Teaching empathy: Evidence-based tips for fostering empathy in children provides ten useful, specific tips to support imparting empathy through a scientific lens to our kids.
So along side the notebooks and newly sharpened pencil, don't forget to throw in a little mindfulness and empathy in the backpack! Here’s to an upcoming school year filled with learning, laughter and connections!
ps.....couldn't resist throwing a little something in here on mindfulness for the kids