Teaches mindfulness to your child's school

Mindfulness in Schools - Less stress: mindfulness as a subject

Integral calculus, Latin declinations or the periodic table: Most school knowledge is quickly forgotten, and it is seldom useful in everyday life. The experts agree that students could really learn something for life if they were taught to understand themselves better - through mindfulness training and psychoeducation. A Hessian high school shows how this could work.

Simple techniques from grade five

The Elisabethenschule in Frankfurt relies on the concept of mindfulness in schools (AISCHU), which was developed by teacher Vera Kaltwasser. The whole thing started in 2004 as a pilot project. "Mindfulness exercises are now firmly anchored in our school program," says teacher Patricia Wilcke. There is at least one teacher per class who is trained and integrates such training into their lessons. Some exercises are simple: for example, the students try to stand up for five minutes only to pay attention to their breathing or to perceive noises in the environment with their eyes closed. Every now and then Wilcke devotes an entire lesson to mindfulness, makes guided “fantasy trips” with the students, where they imagine beautiful places, or body-oriented Qigong exercises.

stress in school

Many students suffer from stress - this has now been proven several times. According to a study by the health insurance company DAK Gesundheit, 43 percent of school children feel stressed and complain of headaches and back pain, sleep problems or panic attacks. As the study from 2017 shows, the reasons for this are different: some girls and boys find it difficult to withstand the pressure to perform and are afraid of bad grades. Others feel uncomfortable in their class, are lonely, or suffer from bullying. The fact is: school is a burden for many students.

A change of school is not always the first choice at this point: rather, conversations should find out what is causing the child's worries. Often it is not just one or two unloved teachers to blame, often it is also the parents who consciously or unconsciously put pressure on the child. Then it is important to first question yourself as a legal guardian

In the game “Mindful Dialogue” cards with pictures are dealt, each describing his or her associations to a different student. The other person listens and then repeats what the first person said. “People often communicate without understanding each other,” says Wilcke. Your students should practice paying more attention to the other person - but also taking better care of themselves. “You could also call it meditation,” says Wilcke, “but we avoid that, it has such an esoteric touch. We rather speak of 'silent breaks'. "

Simple techniques are taught from the fifth grade. "With older students, the whole thing is underpinned with theory and goes more towards psychoeducation," says Wilcke. In high school, for example, high school students learn to understand how and why the body reacts to stress - with the help of the basics of biology and neurophysiology.

Body awareness is also trained in physical education. Source: iStock, Photo: Leonis

Better interaction, more concentration

“The students should learn to regulate themselves emotionally,” says Wilcke. “In the age of cell phones, WhatsApp and social media, they are exposed to constant overstimulation and rarely come to rest.” Therefore, some students are initially overwhelmed when they should simply concentrate on themselves during mindfulness and breathing exercises. “But most of them enjoy it - if only the moment of silence is good.” In physical education, Wilcke also practices Jacobsen's Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PME) with the students, which trains body awareness.

The effects of the whole program are absolutely positive, says Wilcke: “We teachers notice how good it is for the students. They have a completely different tone, are more mindful of themselves and others, and can concentrate better. ”An analysis that Wilcke himself carried out together with scientists from the Coburg University of Applied Sciences also indicated that the project had good, albeit not statistically significant, effects down. According to the authors, the study may have been too small for that.

So would it make sense to introduce AISCHU across the board? The Frankfurt School Authority is offering a one-year advanced training program for teachers that Wilcke also completed, and there is great demand.

Meditation also carries risks

Meltem Avci-Werning is the Federal Chairwoman of the School Psychology Section in the Association of German Psychologists. Including modules on mindfulness and psycho-education in all schools would make perfect sense, she says. This can promote the psychological stability and health of the students, and reduce stress and exam anxiety. “There is a lot of research that shows that this not only promotes well-being, but also learning and concentration. However, the teachers have to be really well trained. You can't just work with YouTube videos. "

One reason for this are the risks that exist even with meditation exercises. In rare cases, these could trigger strong emotional reactions that need to be absorbed: “It can always be the case that students get unpleasant thoughts in moments of rest. As a teacher, you should know how to react if someone breaks down in tears during a mindfulness exercise, for example. "