In early September 2016, we published an article that provided tips to help hyperactive kids to relax and focus (you can read it here). The tips came from a program of two holistic healing practitioners who created it for kids who have high energy, strong personalities, and are easily overwhelmed by electronic stimuli. Kids who benefited the most, they said, where those who struggled with the traditional educational system, and they were often diagnosed with learning disabilities like dyslexia and speech delay as well as ADHD and sensory perception disorder.
One of the techniques the holistic healing coaches recommended was meditation. When we first read it we wondered whether meditation could really work on kids -- they could barely stand still, right? So imagine our surprise when we read this story on how one school uses meditation in detention.
Instead of anxiously waiting the time while buried in school work in detention, Robert W. Coleman Elementary in Baltimore has set up a "Mindful Moment Room," complete with yoga mats and pillows, where misbehaving kids can calm themselves down and, yes, re-center themselves.
The Mindful Moment Room was created in partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation (HLF), a nonprofit organization committed to nurturing the wellness of both children and adults in underserved communities in the United States. It's also part of the after-school program called "Holistic Me," an initiative that teaches children to practice mindful meditation and breathing exercises while encouraging them to talk to behavioral professionals.
The Baltimore-based nonprofit was the brainchild of brothers Atman and Ali Smith and their friend, Andres Gonzalez. They wanted to give kids better tools and life skills to cope with stress and anger through several forms of yoga, Tai-Chi, meditation, and other self-healing arts. With these programs, kids, they believed, could reduce their stress, get a physical workout, promote good health, improve their self-discipline and self-regulation, increase their concentration, and get overall improvement in emotional and mental balance.
"There are some children who have anger management problems. The yoga program has enabled those children to do meditation techniques and instead of them reacting and getting angry, they’ve learned how to meditate and redirect their anger," said Carlillian Thompson, principal of Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, who has not issued a single suspension for kids who misbehaved kids since the program was implemented.
"We integrated the exercises into our daily schedules, and this has helped many students and teachers focus their attention and regulate strong emotions such as anxiety, anger and frustration,” shared Lori Gustovson, a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, another school that partnered with HLF.
One sixth-grader recalled the time when he got mad because of a fellow student’s comment. "Sometimes I might say something back but sometimes I just focus on it and I just breathe... I just walked away and kept on breathing in and out," he said. A fifth-grader used breathing exercising to stay calm during a big test.
The kids are even bringing their learnings at home. "That's how you stop the trickle-down effect, when Mom or Pops has a hard day and yells at the kids, and then the kids go to school and yell at their friends," Andres told Oprah Magazine. "We've had parents tell us, 'I came home the other day stressed out, and my daughter said, Hey, Mom, you need to sit down. I need to teach you how to breathe,'" he added.
There are also schools in the United Kingdom that have adapted a similar practice in support of the overall development of their students. Studies have suggested mediation could offer protection from disruptive emotions, and improve memory, attention span and focus -- and that could just be the tip of the iceberg.