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Well-being at school, Bullying and Cyberbullying
Almost one in three European students report being bullied during the school year and seven out of ten young adults and children are bullied every day, according to the most recent statistics.
Even cyberbullying is on the rise: most of the available data concerns surveys conducted in industrialized countries with percentages of minors who have experienced it that vary between 5% and 20% of the minor population, with psychophysical consequences ranging from head to stomach pains and/or manifested by lack of appetite or sleep disturbances.
As educators and parents, we are aware of this growing problem in our schools. Teachers are constantly trying to be able to convey an educational message to our young people. We often try to better understand the situation, or where that aggressive behavior comes from, but pointing fingers, looking for a culprit, punishing certainly does not solve the situation.
When bullying is discovered within the school walls, the most important question must be: “What do we do now?” The practice of Mindfulness for bullying starts from focusing on the concept of “now”, the only moment in which life takes place, the only moment in which we can really offer help.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is not a belief system. It is the practice of paying attention, in a kind and non-judgmental way, to the present moment, also called “now”. Read the article on the blog to learn more.By helping students train their brains to focus more and strengthen their brain functions, educators can use mindfulness to enhance students’ ability, relax, and not identify with their thinking, processing more in a reasonable amount of time But the main problem is, who helps educators?
In my experience as a Mindfulness facilitator, I have often worked in schools with both teachers and teachers. During the Mindfulness training courses for teachers, I was able to notice how each of them expressed many difficulties in being in the ‘here and now’ even during class hours. So how do we expect our children to be educated to live in the here and now if the teachers themselves are continually distracted or live trapped in the distractions of the mind?
The meaning of “here and now” and mindfulness have been well defined by researchers and authors such as Eckhart Tolle and Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in this field. Early research on the strategy of using mindfulness to prevent bullying shows great promise.
All the benefits of Mindfulness for bullying
According to mindfulschools.org and University of Massachusetts author Janice Houlihan: “Mindfulness practices help the bully, the victim, and all bystanders involved develop a deeper awareness self-reliance, resilience, compassion, and a greater ability to regulate one’s emotional responses.”
In fact, being mindful in the present moment helps teach our students more about their physical selves and how parts of the body and mind work together and against us. Mindfulness becomes a type of “medicine” they can use to let go of the anxiety that can lead to bullying.
There is a vast literature that has highlighted the numerous beneficial effects of mindfulness on children and adolescents. In addition to a general improvement in mental health and social skills, there are:
- Reduction of bullying (Zhou et al., 2016).
- Increased concentration, even in children diagnosed with ADHD (Zhang et al., 2016).
- Reduction of problems related to attention (Crescentini et al., 2016).
Eline Snel, writer and mindfulness expert, has developed a method, Mindfulness Matters, to train teachers and operators in the mental health sector to adopt the principles of mindfulness and put them into practice in their respective professions.
Following the success of the method, you have developed specific programs for children and adolescents to be adopted in schools, in particular the one called Sitting still like a frog, dedicated to the little ones.
“Twelve principals of different schools asked me to take an MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course to experience it personally and understand what it was about – says Snel. Later, two teachers who had done the training elsewhere tried to give it to the children again, but it didn’t work. The MBSR, intended for adults, was not suitable.”
At this point she was asked to implement her own method for the children. “The learning atmosphere changes completely, both on the part of teachers and students – explains Snel. Thanks to 10 minutes of meditation a day, designed for children, feelings of respect and empathy develop. Slowly, children become more willing to listen and include others.”
Currently, 750 children in various Dutch schools are enjoying mindfulness training. In the classes that have adopted the method, there was no longer a need for anti-bullying programs because bullying was no longer a problem.
Like any good athlete, training students to become more mindful takes practice. And while the “art” of mindfulness may seem very simple, our hyperactive brains find it difficult to practice at first. Using mindfulness in class for just 10-15 minutes a day can greatly help students’ behavior, attention, and thought process.
I’m interested in the world
Mindfulness for children has as its main objective to arouse their curiosity, their attention. Making their sense of wonder never end, as well as their interest in connecting with the outside from a more relaxed, more responsive and confident inside.
I am more attentive to my surroundings
The ability to better focus attention on certain stimuli will improve their concentration. This is an aspect that is undoubtedly essential in this world so overloaded with stimuli, in which children do not have reasonable and stable filters with which to manage such a sensory and perceptive avalanche.
I understand, control and channel my negative emotions
On the other hand, as noted above, mindfulness goes beyond a simple compendium of exercises to be implemented almost as a lifestyle. His techniques, his philosophy and his approach often favor changes on us, just enough to offer us new perspectives.
Children, for their part, will be able to better manage their negative emotions from a very early age, to understand the source of their anger or sadness, to channel them correctly. This will greatly improve their social skills, their way of relating, for example avoiding situations of violence and aggression in the classroom.
Mindfulness is a tool to help our children acquire more humanity. Not to simply become workers and consumers, but to immediately cultivate their ability to be present in the world, becoming aware of how beautiful and fragile it is. -The child is the father of the man-, wrote the English poet Wordsworth. Personally, I am convinced (although now I have no evidence and studies to support it!) that mindfulness can help our children become better adults.
Examples of mindfulness techniques for bullying to use in the classroom:
Watch your breath. With a straight back, inhale the words: “I am” and exhale the word: “Peace”. Repeat 3-5 times. Make sure you feel the breath rising from the base of your spine or abdomen and let it rise through your chest and lungs. These can also be referred to as “elevator breaths” for better visual thinking.
A solution that is equally useful for calming precociousness and that you can use is the state of thoughts. You can have fun building and decorating it together. Before your child goes to sleep, try to ask if there is anything upsetting, making him nervous or agitating him. Considering these concerns (rather than avoiding thinking about them) serves to clarify their nature. The thoughts can then be put into the box. You lift the lid, put your thoughts away and close the lid again. At this point, the child places the box on a shelf in the dormitory, at a certain distance, and sees that the thoughts are no longer in his head but in the box.
Here I leave you a guided Mindfulness meditation for children, to help them pay attention to their breathing and improve concentration, be less impulsive and exercise some control over their inner world without condemning or repressing anything.