By Capella Hauer, SSWAA Membership Coordinator
If you are a school social worker, the chances that you have heard of mindfulness, or even been to a mindfulness training (or ten), is very, very likely. But are you like many others who have yet to implement your own mindfulness practice? Or perhaps you are still hesitant to bring it into practice with your clients?
If you want to start bringing more mindfulness into your personal health routine, or into your work with clients, there really is no better time. Now, with the help of easy-to-use apps anyone can practice mindfulness with ease. There are a lot of apps out there to use, but I’ve narrowed down my personal top four, all of which are COMPLETELY FREE for educators! So even if you already use mindfulness, this may be a good article to share with the colleagues and educators in your life.
But before we get into the top four mindfulness apps for educators, let's first review some best practices when implementing mindfulness into your work with clients.
First, it is important to always practice what you preach. If you intend to teach others mindfulness, then you need to model the practice. You wouldn’t expect a basketball coach to train a team without ever having played basketball themselves, would you? You don’t have to be an ‘expert’ at mindfulness (not that there is an Olympic medal for this anyway) but you should practice for yourself. Not only does it provide a healthy model for your clients, but it also brings in the benefits of mindfulness into your work - empathy, clarity, focus, calm, and curiosity to name but a few.
Next, let's discuss some details of implementing mindfulness into your practice with clients. First, mindfulness should never be a mandatory activity.
“Meditation practice cannot be treated like homework or music practice, for two important reasons. First, it’s an entirely internal experience and exercise, so children need to be self-motivated and interested if they are to be successful. Second, requiring that a child practice meditation is essentially useless, because you can’t control someone else’s internal life—nor can you have direct evidence of it.”
Similarly, mindfulness does not have the end goal of calming down. Far too many adults misuse mindfulness in the hopes of forcing children to calm down. But doing this can create frustration or anxiety, causing mindfulness to become a source of great distress (for adults and kids alike!). Remember to stick to the core of what mindfulness is – simply being aware of the present moment and accepting it as it is.
Lastly, when practicing with clients be sure to practice together. Listen to a mindfulness script together, especially when starting out. Over time the children you work with may become comfortable enough to practice on their own. I also suggest using speakers for listening, rather than a headset. This helps ensure you are still able to be aware and present with your surroundings. There can of course be exceptions to this! And lastly, always give the option to clients to either close or open their eyes during practice. Many individuals feel uncomfortable closing their eyes, and there is no evidence to show mindfulness is less effective when practiced with open eyes (Waking Up, 2021).
Now that we’ve gone over tips, let's review my top four mindfulness apps, which are great to use with children! These are in no particular order. I find that a speaker’s voice and cadence can make a big difference for me, so try a few until you find one that fits for you! Click the links in the title to be taken to the app website/educator page.
Calm offers its app FREE to all educators (normally $69.99 a year). There are great series specifically for children that involve children’s favorite characters such as Thomas the Train and Camilla Cabello. There are also sleep stories tailored to children or adults that will have you drifting off to sleep in no time.
Mindfulness Series by Age
Mindfulness Series by Topic (Anxiety, Relationships, Focus, Etc.)
Relaxing Ambient Music
Headspace also offers its app FREE to all educators (normally $69.99 a year). One outstanding feature of Headspace for educators is all the free education resources they provide including training, classroom posters, guides, and more!