Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Mindfulness for Children and Youth: A Review of the Literature with an Argument for School-Based Implementation/Méditation De Pleine Conscience Pour Les Enfants et Les Jeunes: Survol De la Littérature et Argumentation Pour Sa Mise En Oeuvre En Milieu Scolaire

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Mindfulness for Children and Youth: A Review of the Literature with an Argument for School-Based Implementation/Méditation De Pleine Conscience Pour Les Enfants et Les Jeunes: Survol De la Littérature et Argumentation Pour Sa Mise En Oeuvre En Milieu Scolaire

Article excerpt

Children and adolescents are experiencing stress at unprecedented levels (Barnes, Bauza, & Treiber, 2003; Fisher, 2006; Mendelson étal., 2010). Increasing stress may result in anger, anxiety, depression, and externalizing behaviours (e.g., conduct disorder), as well as lowered self-esteem and self-confidence (Barnes et al., 2003; Mendelson et al., 2010; Smith & Womack, 1987). Research suggests that anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem can negatively influence students' school performance by disrupting their thinking and hindering their learning (Barnes et al., 2003; Fisher, 2006; Mendelson et al., 2010). This places schools in the position of influencing students' social, emotional, and behavioural development in ways that educators did not see in previous generations. Teachers need proven methods and strategies to assist students in coping with an increasingly challenging world. Children and youth need strategies that will empower them and support them in successfully navigating their world.

In this article, research investigating the use of mindfulness techniques in managing a variety of challenges faced by child and youth populations is examined. An argument for integrating these techniques into a universal school-based prevention program is provided, as well as directions for future research. The review begins by providing a brief overview of the historical and theoretical underpinnings of mindfulness and some definitions of mindfulness.

THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS

The definition of mindfulness is varied in nature. No one definition can claim consistent usage. Langer and Moldoveanu (2000) suggest that it is "best understood as the process of drawing novel distinctions" (p. 1). The definition put forward by Langer and Moldoveanu articulates that, by drawing novel distinctions or seeing things in new ways, we stay in the present. Kabat-Zinn's definition, "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgm en tally" (1994, p. 4), is frequently used in the literature. This definition aligns itself with Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, and Freedman's (2006) three aspects of mindfulness: intention, attention, and attitude. Bishop et al. (2004) proposed an operational definition of mindfulness that consists of two components: self-regulating attention and adopting an open and accepting orientation toward one's experiences. A common element in all these definitions is a focus on attention, which is at the core of traditional Buddhist mindfulness practices (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).

Kabat-Zinn (2003) speaks to the underlying Buddhist traditions of mindfulness and notes that the actual practice of mindfulness is rooted in a larger framework of nonharming. Kabat-Zinn suggests that mindfulness practices based in the Buddhist tradition can ameliorate suffering by calming and clearing the mind, opening the heart, and distilling attention. When practiced in the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is more than a tool; it is a way of being in the world and understanding the world.

Introducing children to this practice may better prepare them for present and future challenges. The openness and readiness to learn that many children possess may make them receptive to learning mindfulness. Children spend a large percentage of their time in the school environment; therefore, this is an ideal setting for them to learn mindfulness-based practices.

Overview of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of directing one's attention that originates in Eastern meditation traditions (Baer & Krietemeyer, 2006; Kabat-Zinn, 2003). When utilizing or adapting mindfulness-based practices in secular contexts, such as education, it is important to remember the origins and treat it respectfully. By being respectful of the historical beginnings of mindfulness, future generations will gain a greater understanding of mindfulness practice (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Brown and Ryan (2003) identify consciousness, with its attributes of awareness and attention, as a core characteristic of mindfulness. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.