Mindfulness is a practice that helps a person calm their thoughts so they can change their behaviors. We often hear of it being practiced by adults, but I read this article, today, about an organization using mindfulness to help children.
The particular article was about Mindful Schools (for grades K – 5) and their reported success with teaching their mindfulness curriculum to some 30,000 public elementary school students. In browsing further through their website, I was struck by the simplicity, yet effectiveness of their program, which costs very little to implement and takes just 4 hours/week!
This in turn prompted me to want to raise further awareness about childhood trauma and about using the power of the brain to counter it. Mindfulness is but one option to enhance that power. Three more include: nutrition, sleep and exercise. But back to the point of this post, using mindfulness – especially as it relates to protecting a child’s brain against the impacts of childhood trauma. Why childhood trauma?
Childhood trauma is one of the five key risk factors for developing a substance abuse problem and/or the disease of addiction. If we can help children counter its impacts (through programs, such as mindfulness, education about the brain, improvements in nutrition and exercise, and the importance of sleep), we can prevent underage drinking/drug use. Why such a claim? Because we’d be doing it while the child’s brain was in its early developmental stages – long before that child’s first drink or drug use experience. And why is that important? Because addiction is a developmental disease.
Childhood trauma includes:
- physical, emotional and sexual abuse;
- emotional and physical neglect;
- a parent who’s an alcoholic or addicted to other drugs;
- a mother who’s been battered;
- a family member in prison or diagnosed with mental illness; and
- a loss of a parent through divorce or abandonment.
Mental Health – the Impacts of Childhood Trauma is a related post that explains the impacts of childhood trauma on a child’s mental health.
How Mindfulness Can Help
Given the brain is wiring from birth, the experiences a child has from birth impact that wiring, which in turn, impacts that child’s thoughts, words, feelings and behaviors.
If we can help a child understand the basics of how the brain works and therefore the basics of the power they can excerpt over their brains, we can teach a child methods – such as mindfulness – they can use to counter the impacts of childhood trauma. That, in turn, can help their brains wire more healthily, which in turn makes their brain less susceptible to the chemical and structural changes caused by substance use. It also gives them the confidence to “just say, ‘No.'”
Now that would be a novel approach to substance abuse prevention!