Practicing mindfulness with children has become a popular way to help them manage stress, behavior and self-regulation inside the classroom and out.
As a classroom teacher, Children’s Librarian, Girl Scout leader, afterschool educator, or any other facilitator, we know you have a lot on your plate to teach AND keep your kids safe. Use our lesson plans to start open conversations about stress and mindfulness in your space, encourage curiosity about health and the body, and inspire discussions about treating others with kindness.
COVID-19 may be causing new stress and anxiety for your students.
When adults deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. There are many things you can do to support your students. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information: https://go.usa.gov/xvxea. #shareNIMH
Our lessons are designed for grades K-5 with the flexibility for you to decide how much depth is appropriate for your students. The activities themselves usually take about 5-10 minutes; full lessons might be 20+ minutes with lots of conversation!
Note for educators: this lesson is intended to teach students about what stress is, where it comes from, and general tips for managing everyday stress. It should not be used as a replacement for professional psychological care. In some cases, this activity might bring up challenging topics or discussions, or may cause children to feel worried. For 24/7 free, confidential nationwide support finding resources to manage stress, please call 1-800-662-HELP (4357), and see below for more resources.
|Mindfulness Lessons||Address that Stress||Bubble Breathing||Mindfulness Jars|
|Description||Squeeze a stress ball to slow down, breathe, and relax.||Taking slow deep breaths tells our body that it is time to be calm.||Shake the jar and breathe deeply watching the glitter fall.|
About Stress and Mindfulness
Stress happens when the brain sends “fight or flight” messages to the body in response to a stimulus or challenge. You can think of it as the brain’s way of helping the body prepare for an emergency situation.
Everyone feels stress sometimes! There are a few different types:
-routine stress (like school pressures);
-stress from a sudden negative event (like a parent’s divorce); and
-traumatic stress (like after a car accident).
Most people fully recover naturally over time from all types of stress, even if the stress brings distressing physical and emotional reactions.
Some of the physical reactions that might come with stress include:
-increased heart rate, rush of adrenaline, and heightened senses, which can make someone feel jumpy
-sweating a lot
-deeper oxygen intake, which can make someone feel like he/she cannot breathe due to the uneven levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide being inhaled and exhaled
There are some things we can do in the moment that can change the messages our brains are sending. One of the major ones is to focus on breathing: evening out the oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies will help relax the body naturally. Most of our activities focus on building this habit.
Some other ways to minimize and prevent stress:
-yoga or meditation
-taking a shower or bath
-talking with loved ones/trusted friends
-journaling or other creative activities
-sensory activities, such as chewing gum or playing with kinetic sand
-consulting with a doctor
It is important to remember that everyone feels stressed sometimes and that we all feel stress differently – stress is normal!
Sometimes, stress can even be a good thing – having increased adrenaline before a big performance or test can help you focus, and your body’s response will make you more prepared in the face of an emergency.
If you are looking for additional resources or know someone who is struggling to manage stress, please reach out to your school’s counselor/psychologist, or if you are in the District of Columbia area, the Children’s National Hospital READY Clinic by calling 571-405-5912. For 24/7 free, confidential nationwide support finding resources to manage stress, please call 1-800-662-HELP (4357). In case of emergency, always call 911.
Mindfulness in Context: How to Support Students
Incorporate mindfulness practices into your space: short meditations, yoga, deep breathing exercises and reflection spaces are all easy ways to help students manage stress. See this article for more information.
If you don’t feel comfortable leading your own practice, try sharing one of these videos:
Remind your students that stress is normal for everyone. Try sharing a story of a time you faced a challenge or stressful moment and how you managed your feelings and emotions.
Bernstein, R (2016); Hermann, N (1997); University of Michigan (2018); and Brain and Body Solutions