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Mindfulness Key to Reducing Childhood Anxiety

Growing rates of anxiety and depression in Kiwi children can be managed through mindfulness, a growing practice that can benefit both teachers and their students.

Mindfulness was the theme of the 2019 Steiner Education Aotearoa New Zealand (SEANZ) Conference, celebrating 100 years of Steiner Education. More than 200 people attended the Conference held April 13-15 in Auckland.

It has been reported that depression is common in children and teenagers: around 1 in 7 young people in New Zealand will experience a major depressive disorder and 1 in 5 will experience a serious mood disorder before the age of 24.

Janet Molloy, CEO of SEANZ, says while interest in the benefits of mindfulness is growing, Steiner schools have been practising it for the past one hundred years.

“Children find it difficult to learn when they are stressed or dealing with anxiety or depression. This is why we teach in a measured and calm way and take our time to explore subjects. When children are stressed, they can face learning blocks and behavioural issues.

“We actively look at ways to help children manage their anxiety. We know that around nine or ten years of age, children can develop anxieties, which we factor into our teaching, through stories, art and movement. We help students to breathe more slowly and naturally,” says Janet Molloy.

Gaylene Denford-Wood, Teacher Educator and Researcher, who recently won the Vice Chancellor’s Prize for Doctoral Thesis Excellence from Flinders University in Adelaide Australia has been invited to present sessions on ‘Seminaria’ mindfulness to the more than 200 attendees.

Gaylene Denford-Wood says practising the kind of mindfulness to suit their needs can benefit everyone.

“During our research with teachers and leaders, we found there were three key benefits to using the mindfulness of seminaria. An increase in vitality, self-realisation and meaningfulness. These matched the OECD (2013) Guidelines for Wellbeing. Mindfulness is valuable for calming the modern-day rush of life.”

Janet Molloy says schools can help children and teachers by incorporating mindfulness. Steiner teachers are encouraged to learn meditative mindfulness as part of professional development towards reflective practice.

“Teachers have busy, stressful jobs. If we can encourage everyone in a classroom to practise mindfulness, then it will benefit learning outcomes for students, improve their concentration and creativity,” says Janet Molloy.

The 2019 Steiner Conference, ‘Inside Out’ celebrates 100 years of Steiner Education worldwide, and featured international and local speakers on a range of topics including wellbeing, writing, music and art in early childhood. The first Steiner school officially opened in Hawke’s Bay, in 1950. Around 3000 children are in Steiner education, from kindergarten to Year 13, throughout New Zealand.

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