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!
Mindfulness Series by Age
Over 500+ Mindfulness Exercises
Articles and Training on SEL For Children
3. Smiling Mind
Based in Australia but loved worldwide, Smiling Mind also offers its app completely FREE to everyone. Similar to HeadSpace, Smiling Mind offers educators free resources such as trainings, classroom engagement tools, guides, and more!
Smiling Mind includes:
Mindfulness Series by Age
COVID Digital Care Package
SEL Lessons, Mindfulness Curriculums and Journals For Children
4. Waking Up
Waking Up is slightly different than the above listed apps for two key reasons; it is not free, and the purpose of the app is slightly different. According to their site, “The purpose of meditation isn’t merely to reduce stress or to make you feel better in the moment—it’s to make fundamental discoveries in the laboratory of your own mind.” Keeping this in mind, Waking Up may be the perfect app for your own personal use, especially if you want to dive further into your practice. Now, it is also not free, however, Waking Up does offer free membership to individuals who truly cannot afford the $99.99 per year fee. All they ask is you simply email them and request a free membership.
Waking Up includes:
Mindfulness Series by Topic
Mindfulness Practice for Children
Recorded Talks on Mindfulness Theory
Waking Up App - https://wakingup.com/children
Calm App - https://www.calm.com/schools
Smiling Mind app - https://www.smilingmind.com.au/education
Headspace app - https://www.headspace.com/educators
Capella Hauer is the Membership Coordinator for the School Social Work Association of America. She graduated from New Mexico Highlands University in 2015 with her Master’s in Clinical Social Work. She is a practicing School Social Worker in Tucson, Arizona where she also obtained her certificate in Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and runs a non-profit bakery out of her home.