How schools can ward off anxiety, misbehavior and even violence through mindfulness

A new technique to prevent tensions that can escalate to violence in schools. Instead of assigning those who act out a time out in detention, the kids are being given time for reflection. It’s called “mindfulness.”

Naomi Persaud is an outpatient program coordinator at Richard Hall Community Center. She goes into school districts after there’s been a traumatic loss and educates educators and schools about mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is the ability to be present in your current moment and to be able to calm your emotions in that moment,” Persaud said.

There was a small audience at a training session that came for Persaud’s big message, how it only costs education and practice to combat what looms large on campus: stress. Stress that can lead to anxiety, misbehavior and even violence. All, she says, mindfulness can address.

“You’re reducing your stress. You’re reducing your anxiety. But you’re also increasing your ability to be able to think clearly,” she said.

The goal is to raise awareness about mindfulness so that more schools will practice it so that it becomes as commonplace as breathing.

The idea is that if you’re stressed out, you can stop what you’re doing, take a moment to breath and relax.

“Sometimes even being able to remove ourselves from the situation [physically],” Persaud said. “So, we have some school districts that are creating mindful rooms, are using them instead of detention. So, having to be removed from a room because of behavior, some students have been able to use a mindful room to regulate themselves. They’re encouraged to go in, take a moment of silence to be able to take a deep breath and then be able to still talk about what took place in order for their behaviors to escalate.”

Mindfulness is a growing trend in America’s schools. The forms include yoga, deep breathing, and meditation. Persaud says the Quiet Time program has produced remarkable results in some places over two years: a 10% increase in test scores. 86% drop in suspensions. 40% drop in psychological distress and a 65% decrease in violent conflicts.

“I think our kids these days have a different set of stressors than we did. So I think really trying to incorporate this in to their day-to-day practice so it’s a tool that they have and a tool that they’ve already trained their body to do. So when they have a moment where they want to utilize it, it’s not a new tool,” Persaud said.

She also adds that adults can set examples.

“So, for me as an adult, our day-to-day is when we’re in the car with our kids traffic can get any one’s emotions to escalate. So, I think that would be a very easy way for us to kind of incorporate that. Obviously, we have to continue to stay in the moment because we have to be vigilant of our surroundings. But I think that is one easy way to incorporate that,” she said.

Persaud says there can be some resistance to the mindfulness practice, but one thing tends to quell that: education.