When you teach mindfulness, you teach the importance of it, what it is, why is matters, and how it impact your life and the life of your child.
One of the benefits of practicing mindfulness is increased self-awareness.
But what does this mean for kids? Are kids really that self-aware? Do they need to be?
Want to learn more about how mindfulness relates to the classroom? Sign up for my online course Creating Mindful Classrooms!
Self-awareness is the ability to look within, recognize that you are a being separate from those around you, the ability to keep our eye on our inner world, rather than only our surroundings.
Self-awareness includes traits such as self-control, emotional intelligence, and non-judgement. When we learn and accept things about ourselves, we are less judgemental and accept those things as being a part of us, rather than giving ourselves a hard time.
Another important component of self-awareness is the ability to recognize our emotional patterns, because the information stored in these patterns paves the way for how we deal with similar situations in the future.
For example, if you eat sugary foods when you are sad, you will likely always do this, resulting in a multitude of other health problems, both physically and mentally.
Depending on the age of your child, they likely know the basic emotions- happy, sad, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust.
But did you know that there are literally hundreds of words we can use to describe our different emotions?
Kids are more likely to know HOW they are feeling than WHY they are feeling this way and WHAT they can do about it.
In other words, it is up to as, as adults, to help children understand their emotions and provide them with tools to appropriately and effectively manage their emotions.
Practicing mindfulness in the classroom will help kids to identify their emotions, understand the intensity of their emotions, and learn tools for appropriately and effectively managing their emotions. And this is only some of the benefits of practicing mindfulness.
So how does self-awareness relate to education?
Ineffective self-awareness skills in the classroom can lead to inappropriate behaviours, reduced learning, inaccurate understanding of ourselves, ineffective decision-making, and even decision fatigue.
Within the education system, self-awareness translates to determine how you best learn, manage emotions in a classroom, maintain motivation and attention, increase self-compassion and development of morale, and improve social relationships including student-teacher and student-student.
Want to read more, check out How to Include Mindfulness in the Classroom!
Okay, but what does this really mean?
How you best learn
Self-awareness can help a student to determine what works best for them in how they learn. Do they learn better by writing everything down on paper? Highlighting things in different colors? Are they a visual learner or an audio learner? Determining how one learns best translates to better studying, higher grades, increased motivation to learn, and a more positive outlook on learning and being in the classroom in general.
Managing emotions in the classroom
Sometimes it is difficult to be in school. Things are happening at home, a student as an important soccer game coming up. As an educator, it can be difficult to know everything that is going on in a student’s life. And as a student, it can be even more difficult to separate these emotions. Increased self-awareness can help students to better manage their emotions (i.e. put aside their excitement about the soccer game) to focus on their schoolwork.
Maintaining motivation and attention
A typical school day is very busy for students with the ever-changing schedules, classroom transitions, educator transitions, subject transitions, and even the transition from individual work to group work. All of this can make it very difficult for students to stay motivated and focused throughout the day. Being more self-aware and able to emotionally regulate will help students to stay focused during transitions and put their past work behind them so they can focus on the task at hand.
Increase self-compassion and development of morale
Self-compassion in the classroom is related to being able to identify reasons for experiences, rather than being self-deprecating. For example, instead of saying things such as “I’m so stupid, I failed this test”, a student might say “I didn’t study as hard as I should have, I will try harder next time”. In this instance, there is a REASON they did not perform well on the test. And that reason has nothing to do with their capabilities, but their actions.
Development of morale in the classroom is related to decision-making such as the decision not to cheat on a test, have only one student do all the work in a group project, or taking responsibility for one’s actions rather than placing blame on another student.
Improved social relationships
Being more self-aware, believe it or not, actually helps us to be more aware of others- their emotions, thoughts, and feelings- making us more empathetic and increasing our ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes (perspective-taking). This helps us to build more positive relationships with those around us, making classrooms aspects such as group work easier, as well as allowing students to feel better about their schoolwork.
Improved self-awareness skills also helps students to achieve a growth mindset.
Mindfulness is a simple tool that you can easily implement into the classroom to increase a student’s self-awareness. It can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Some examples of mindfulness in the classroom include:
- Take a mindful break
- Practice yoga at your desk or with your chair
- Read mindful books
- Use mindful apps
- Include flexible seating
It has been argued that self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional regulation, that it is fundamental in a child’s psychological development.
Improved self-awareness does not take away our mistakes, it doesn’t mean that we will never make a mistake again, that we will never lash out or be hard on ourselves ever again.
And that’s okay.
It simply means that we will better understand the WHY and learn the WHAT of we can do about it.
Self-awareness is a lifelong skill that is easily developed at a young age. And, since we spend the majority of our childhoods in the classroom, why not start to learn it there?