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Cultivating Awareness: The Practice of Mindfulness at Holy Child
Elise Baker with Jacky Hunt

“You will see that Our Lord will do everything if we do our best.” This quote by Cornelia Connelly, foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, embodies the hope that we have for our students of being their best—their best in the classroom, at recess, on the field, and in their communities. We know this is not easy for children (and adults) at times with so many transitions in their days, tests in their schedules, and challenges to navigate. That is why the practice of mindfulness, something that Holy Child teacher Jacky Hunt has been sharing for years with our Early Childhood students, is so essential.

Mindfulness is a way for the children to harness their energy and attention in a positive way to help them with whatever they are doing in that moment. This wellness practice has been in the spotlight in recent years, and it takes on a special meaning for us as we educate the whole child.

So what does mindfulness look like in the classroom? In Jacky’s Early Childhood classes, she’ll often talk about scenarios in which the children can use their yoga poses, breathing, and other mindfulness techniques; how they can show others what we’ve learned; and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Sometimes she’ll ask the children, “What kind of things upset you?” From there, they discuss their responses, how they can handle their feelings, ways to slow down, pausing when they’re overwhelmed, and choosing to do the positive next step.

Early Childhood uses the Move with Me Yoga Adventures DVD series which teaches poses and deep breathing, and then they put those lessons into practice. The children are eager to assume the poses, which have fun names such as, “Elephant Wisdom,” “Spider-Man,” “Candle,” “Hummingbird,” and more.

After just a few weeks of practicing mindfulness at the beginning of the school year, Jacky tends to see, “less commotion in the ocean.” The students are more focused and are able to direct their energy better. They begin to use their body and their breathing to their benefit. They also respond to stressful or new situations with less of a negative emotional response as they develop a way to cope with the transitions. Knowing how to be active listeners naturally arises out of mindfulness as well. This frees the children to be more present to others because of their own growing self-awareness. Along with this self-awareness comes metacognition, as students gain an understanding of how they learn.

The question then becomes, “how can parents put mindfulness learned in school into practice at home?” There are several ways you can reinforce what exercises your children are learning at Holy Child or build upon the foundations they learned a few years ago. If you ask your older children to strike some of the yoga poses they learned back in Early Childhood, they would probably surprise you with their knowledge. For older students, mindfulness practices at Holy Child don’t end in Early Childhood, or even in Lower School for that matter. Once the students have learned the basics, those foundations are subtly built upon in gym classes through core strengthening, Pilates, and more.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Create a conversation surrounding mindfulness. Ask, “What are you learning? Can you teach me?”  The children love sharing their knowledge and acting as the teacher. The best part is, the more they practice and teach others, the more they remember the information.
  2. Talk through scenarios with your child. Asking questions when difficult emotions arise can help children learn coping mechanisms for the future. Ask, “If you’re feeling nervous (sad, frustrated, left out, etc.) what do you do? What do you do at school that helps you feel better?”
  3. Practice makes perfect. Has your daughter shown you her favorite yoga poses (Elephant Wisdom, Spider-Man, Hummingbird, Candle, etc.)? Practice them with her. Does your son mention how we take relaxing breaths? Take a moment out of the day and get lost in mindfulness with him. You may just find some helpful practices yourself! If you as a parent practice yoga, share what you learn with your kids or take them with you to class.

Still looking for more information on mindfulness? Check out these links!