The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley recently highlighted the essential connection between social emotional learning and mindfulness. The center states that by helping children “become aware of and then embody the connection between their emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations, students are better able to regulate their emotions, which then impacts things such as their behavior, stress levels, relationships, and ability to focus.” Practicing social emotional skills in tangible ways helps children become more aware of themselves and others.
Children who take time to think before acting are more likely to make responsible decisions and manage their emotions. Christopher Willard, Tufts psychologist and author of Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed, names several ways in which children may practice mindfulness. Taking deep breaths is one way for children to pause and focus. Willard states that “exercises such as breathing consciously or taking a minute or two to really listen can help a child regulate such feelings as anger and anxiety.”
Children can further regulate emotions by learning to identify their own body language as well as the body language of others. A racing heart can be the effect of nervousness or excitement, and a frown can be a sign of sadness or frustration. These physical signs can be cues for children to learn the moments when they may need to pause and relax. Children who are able to recognize these cues in themselves and others are also able to mitigate potential conflict.
Willard further emphasizes the meaningful results when children take a few moments to listen to and observe their surroundings. He encourages another tangible practice in which children “listen carefully for about a minute and then name five sounds he heard while being quiet.” In this way, children practice how to pause, reflect, and gain awareness of self and others.
The Greater Good Science Center asserts that such “mindfulness practices connect students’ inner and outer experiences and help them see the congruence between the two.” Children who are able to stop to think, to pause and reflect, are better able to live with assurance in the moment and build happy and peaceful futures.