News Updates

Can Mindfulness Help Kids Do Well In School?

Published on October 25th, 2016 in Margaret Donnelly O'Connor Education Center

What do Oprah Winfrey, Kobe Bryant and the employees of Google, Target and General Mills have in common with the children of the Margaret Donnelly O’Connor Education Center?

They are all benefitting from practicing mindfulness meditation.

What is mindfulness?

According to Mindful magazine, it’s “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Why are so many people interested in mindfulness and why is our Education Center jumping on the bandwagon?

Many studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can lead to startling improvements in physical and mental health. It is known to be an effective treatment for depression, anxiety and even helps to improve focus as well as reduce behavioral problems in youth.

This is particularly helpful for low-income children who suffer considerable emotional trauma and stress growing up in a household where parents live paycheck to paycheck and often suffer from anxiety or PTSD after escaping violent neighborhoods where homelessness, gang wars and crime are rife. Many families living in Fair Share Housing Development’s award-winning Ethel R. Lawrence Homes come from Camden, which is one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the United States.

Recently, Education Director Steve Axberg began introducing trauma-informed care into our program, beginning with “The Huddle,” which was described in our Spring-Summer 2016 newsletter. This fall, Steve worked with our new Jesuit Volunteer Meghan Murphy to develop a daily mindfulness meditation program, which is helping our kids to unwind before they tackle their homework after a long day at school.

“At first the kids found the practice strange, but they quickly warmed up,” Steve reports. “We have observed kids who are typically fidgety and unfocused become more willing to work on task.” Steve noticed that kids took their learning from “The Huddle” home with them and says he hopes our students will also teach their parents about the benefits of a mindfulness practice. “We expect the benefits to only grow as the school year progresses.”

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