Mindfulness Training Helps Kids Cope with Stress and Clear the Mind.
Emily Queenan was in middle school when she decided to take a yoga class.
Under the direction of yoga instructor Suzanne Borgioli, Queenan became familiar with the practice of meditation. She developed an understanding of its many fundamental benefits, she says, such as stress relief and lower blood pressure.
“There are so many stressors in middle school and high school,” Queenan says, from classes and homework to maintaining friendships and navigating relationships.
She says that through meditation, she obtained tools to help calm her nerves before an exam and formed a deeper overall sense of how to prioritize her desires and focus her energy.
“I learned how to accept myself and not compare myself to others so much,” she explains.
Queenan is hardly alone. In recent years, as the benefits of meditation have become more widely discussed and accepted, more children and teenagers are turning to the practices and techniques of mindfulness to help them cope with everyday stresses and busy childhoods. Results of a 2012 National Interview Survey published by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, indicated that about 202,000 more children ages 4 to 17 in the United States used meditation in 2012 than in 2007.
Queenan, a native of Merrimac, Mass., got her certification to become a yoga instructor during her junior year at Pentucket Regional Senior High School. She was “a generation behind” her older yoga classmates, Queenan says with a laugh.
Today, the 19-year-old Queenan is studying nursing and holistic medicine at the University of Vermont, and says her life would be much different had she never set foot inside a yoga studio. Perhaps she wouldn’t have the sense of empathy she does now, or a clear sense of the career she wants, she says.
“I think I wouldn’t be as in tune with myself as I am now,” Queenan says. “I try to live my yoga practices as fully as I can.”
Teaching meditation to children and teens is one of the best parts of her job, says Borgioli, the owner of Giving Tree Yoga & Wellness in Haverhill. On Thursday afternoons this fall, Giving Tree will run a weekly meditation and breathing class for kids ages 7 to 11.
Borgioli notes that in today’s fast-paced world, children can be overscheduled and under significant pressure to succeed and meet responsibilities. Many crave the calming effects meditation offers.
“It’s a life skill,” Borgioli says. “It teaches self-respect, thoughtfulness, discipline, self-awareness … it trains the mind.”