At Bilingual Families of SJ we advocate for including Mindfulness practices in our classes for children between 0 and 5 years old. But why we include it in our language classes?
Kristin Leren, Ph.D. in Clinical, Developmental, and School Psychology and one of our members of Bilingual Families of SJ answers the question:
We now know that the way to help a child develop optimally is to help create connections in her brain—her whole brain—that develop skills that lead to better relationships, better mental health, and more meaningful lives. You could call it brain sculpting, or brain nourishing, or brain building. Whatever phrase you prefer, the point is crucial, and thrilling: as a result of the words we use and the actions we take, children’s brains will actually change, and be built, as they undergo new experiences.
Daniel J. Siegel
This quote by Dr. Siegel (author of books such as The Whole Brain Child) sums up why ‘mindfulness’ practices or ‘brain nourishing’ practices are a part of our language lessons. We are focused on developing the whole person. As parents, we hope to guide our children to embody essential life skills. Incorporating mindfulness practices will give our children additional skills to become better learners by helping them develop attention skills, increase their ability to stop and enjoy what is happening in the moment, cope with stressors and challenges in life, and to develop the self-confidence to be compassionate and kind towards self and others.
Materials used for the classes will be coming mainly from Daniel Rechtshaffen (The Way of Mindful Education) and, Daniel Siegel (The Whole Brain Child), and Susan Kaiser Greenland (Mindful Child & Mindful Games). These sources provide both theoretical background knowledge as well as a framework for different kinds of mindfulness practices.
Daniel Rechtschaffen Videos
Mindfulness & Education
Dr. Daniel; Siegel Videos:
Hand Model of the Brain
Lecture on Mindsight
Susan Keiser Greenland
TED Talk – Teaching Mindfulness to Children
Example of a Mindfulness Practice
Kristin Leren moved to the US from Norway 20 years ago with the goal to study Clinical Psychology. Today she holds a Ph.D. in Clinical, Developmental, and School Psychology from Bryn Mawr College. Post doctorate she obtained additional training in treating anxiety. Prior to having her son, Lucas André, she conducted therapy at Child Study Institute at Bryn Mawr College focusing on treating anxiety and depression in children and adolescents. Now she works as the coordinator of psychological services for a large and diverse school district in PA (Upper Darby School District) with 54 different languages represented in the student population.
Kristin has always had an interest in mindfulness and the neuropsychology that explains why it works. The idea that we can engage in behaviors that directly influence our brain development fascinates her. Working with children and adolescents who experienced anxiety, she saw first hand how our bodies and mind could rewire through behavioral changes. Kristin obtained additional training in this line of work by attending several workshops at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY.
In Kristin’s home, three languages are spoken: Spanish, Norwegian, and English. Kristin and her husband, Luis Alberto, are fully aware of the great effort needed to help their son become fluent in these three languages. Finding and becoming involved in the Bilingual Families of SJ has become an important part of their lives to achieve this goal.
As Bilingual Families of SJ became more organized and started defining more clearly their mission and learning objectives, Kristin explored the idea of people’s interest in including mindfulness practices as a part of their classes. Members were open to and curious about this idea. Kristin saw including mindfulness practices as a natural extension of the organization’s goal of providing cognitive learning benefits to our children and to provide a service to the community.