A recent MindShift article highlighted some things teachers should be aware of if they’re bringing mindfulness into their classrooms. Students may have experienced trauma that makes sitting silently with their eyes closed feel threatening, and teachers can’t assume it will be an easy practice for every child. That awareness is important to create an inclusive environment, but it doesn’t mean that teachers shouldn’t cultivate their own mindfulness practice or use some techniques with students.
Often mindfulness is used as a way to help students build self-regulation skills and learn to calm down when they become frustrated or angry. Cultivating those skills can be powerful for students, but many teachers say mindfulness is crucial for themselves, helping them take an extra moment before reacting to students.
“The best way to practice trauma-informed mindfulness is [for teachers] to have their own practice and interpret the behavior of the youth through a trauma-informed lens, even if they never do mindfulness training with the kids,” said Sam Himelstein, a clinical psychologist, trainer and author who has spent most of his career working with incarcerated youth. He’s received a lot of questions about how to be trauma-informed while still using mindfulness in classrooms since the first article. He suggest nine guidelines for teachers that he uses to make sure mindfulness practice with youth is helping, not hurting.
1. Do No Harm
2. Establish a sense of safety
3. Build relational mindfulness
4. Understand intersectionality. Be mindful of implicit bias and culture.
5. Understand the “window of tolerance” and be on the lookout for it
6. The paradox of mental training
7. When teaching mindfulness, prioritize somatic-based exercises.
8. Don’t over-identify with mindfulness logistics
9. Think about daily mindfulness interventions.
And if you would like to be trained as a trauma-informed mindfulness teacher, consider our 300-hr Mindfulness Teacher Certification.