psychotherapist, I’ve used guided imagery with kids for many years. Through the
process of relaxation breathing and positive imagery, kids experience less
anxiety and learn to regulate their emotions.
Sometimes I use a pre-written script
(a relaxing story) that they choose. Other times they come to me with their own
scripts. More often than not, they bring their scripts home to use at night
before they fall asleep.
You don’t have
to be highly anxious or under significant stress to benefit from guided imagery.
It helps center my own kids after a tiring day and brings them back to the
present. It helps melt away hidden stress — the kind that often results in headaches
or sore necks. It’s amazing that something as simple as breathing and positive
imagery can change everything for the better.
programs are popping up in schools all over the country and for good reason. With
the pushing down of academics, kids are under more stress in school than they
once were. But it isn’t just difficult schoolwork that leads to stress and
frustration. Many schools don’t have the time to implement social skills
programs, and kids are left to cope with difficult emotions and social issues
independently. That’s a tall order for elementary school children. They need
guidance and support as they navigate tricky social situations.
programs address the academic, emotional and social needs of students. The MindUp program, founded by Goldie Hawn, has
been proven to reduce stress, improve concentration and help students and teachers thrive in the classroom. Drawing
on both mindfulness training and positive psychology, MindUp helps increase
optimism and empathy while reducing bullying and aggression. Rest assured, educators, MindUp
aligns with the Common Core State Standards and helps kids improve
concentration for academic success.
research on mindfulness programs in schools is still emerging, there are clear
benefits to practicing mindfulness. According to the Mayo Clinic, mindfulness meditation (focusing on
breathing and letting negative emotions pass) can help with stress management,
increase self-awareness, reduce negative emotions, help people focus on the
present and learn to look at stressful situations through a
different lens. In a nutshell, mindfulness practices can reduce stress and
anxiety while increasing positive emotions.
Why wouldn’t we make this part of the curriculum in elementary school?
whether schools implement the MindUp program, teachers can encourage mindfulness
practices in their own classroom to help students thrive. These three steps are a good start:
1. Set up a relaxation corner
shifting emotions throughout the day (don’t we all?), and this can result in
increased overall stress. Unless we teach kids how to cope with their negative
emotions, they are left to bottle them up inside. This is a concern because
unresolved emotions often manifest in anxiety, depression and difficulty
relating to peers and teachers.
Taking a quick break from academics to do a feelings check-in helps kids focus on their current state and consider options to restore a feeling of calmness.
corner is a great way to teach kids to take a break when overwhelmed. There are
many great options to make the relaxation corner feel safe and comfortable to
kids. Headphones and an iPod can provide an escape from stress via relaxing
music or a meditation app. Stress balls can give students a chance to work the
stress out of their muscles. A beanbag chair and a book nook are other great
tools for shifting away from anxious thoughts. Drawing and coloring is another
outlet for stress and will help them center on themselves. Set a timer so kids
use their relaxation time efficiently, and don’t use it as an excuse to avoid
2. Try breathing exercises
imagery scripts that I use with clients and my own kids take approximately 5 to 7
minutes to complete. In less than 10
minutes, teachers can help kids regulate their breathing, relax their muscles and focus on the present.
A good rule to
follow when teaching relaxation breathing to kids is to have them breathe in for a count
of three, hold for three and release for three. Repeat three times before adding imagery or
If kids are out
of touch with their emotions, it’s often because they don’t have enough time to
consider them. Taking a quick break from academics to do a feelings check-in
helps kids focus on their current state and consider options to restore a
feeling of calmness. Use a magnet board with faces of different feelings and
encourage students to choose which one most accurately represents how they
feel. Have them write it on the board and provide them with a list of
strategies to combat each emotion. This exercise empowers kids as they learn to
regulate their own emotions throughout the day.