Mighty Mindfulness with The Power of the Pen
By CHRISTINA LUCIANO
Mighty Writers teaches kids ages 3-17 to think clearly and write with clarity so they can achieve success in school, in work and in life.
Through our afterschool, out of school and summer writing programs, Mighty Writers develops unique and enriching communities, champions the stories of diverse youth writers, meets each student’s social and emotional needs, and drives each student to reach their maximum potential. When kids begin to think clearly and write with clarity, grades improve, personalities become more upbeat. Futures come into view. We see self-esteem soar. We believe that all the needs of the children must be met to succeed- social, emotional, mental, and academic, especially during these times. As we acclimate back to some sort of normalcy, we have to approach the reopening as if we would approach children in trauma. Many experts equate the Covid-19 pandemic as a traumatic event in our lives, and many adults and children will develop PTSD or have developed PTSD. At Mighty Writers, we had already implemented mindfulness programming before the pandemic, as so many of our children cope with trauma daily. Many of our Mighty youth frequently cope with trauma in their daily lives, causing physical, mental, and emotional harm that significantly impacts their ability to learn. Through mindfulness techniques, our young writers learn to understand and effectuate concepts like gratitude, confidence, peace, respect, and compassion. They explore and experience teamwork and self-regulation that leads to positive ways of being. We utilize mindfulness to teach kids to be emotionally resilient, cultivate their inner strength, and foster their overall sense of well-being.
Our mindfulness program grew out of a realization that if our mission was to teach kids to think clearly and write with clarity, we needed to focus on the mental health of our students. Clarity of thought can be unfathomable for some of our kids coming from the city’s most violent and challenging neighborhoods. The same is true for our kids who struggle in school, are bullied, or are burdened at home with adult-sized responsibilities and concerns. To accomplish all our goals, MW incorporates mindfulness programming as our new way of being and nothing less. It will help our Mighty students find new ways to feel, see, and listen. And by listen, I mean to themselves.
We have a vision for our youth; by developing objectives that teach kids how to reduce stress, cope with stressors, gain personal control, and develop strong relationships, we can ultimately improve mental health and health outcomes.
To achieve these goals, all our programs take a mindful approach. In 2019, we hired two staff members with extensive training in mindfulness techniques to lead program components and train program staff in how to use mindfulness.
Since then, we’ve increased our partnerships to include the Catholic School Partnerships of Camden and Ronald McDonald Houses of PA and NJ.
For an hour each week, students practice tools such as body awareness, emotion regulation, and mindful breathing. They focus on their everyday lives, at school and home. They write and create (and eat!) with attention, awareness, and kindness.
In workshops that are not mindfulness-specific, our trained staff still incorporates mindfulness techniques like journaling. Through the use of yoga-based movement and meditation, our young writers learn to understand and effectuate concepts like gratitude, confidence, respect, and compassion. In arts-based workshops, they explore teamwork and self-regulation that leads to positive coping methods and emotional resilience.
Workshop times are based upon student and family availability. In our experience, the most well-attended programs occur between the hours of 4PM to 7:30PM. Workshops also can occur on weekends, which has been successful for family mindfulness meetups.
With the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and school shutdowns, we have adapted our programs to a virtual format. We now offer at least five online mindfulness workshops each quarter for ages 7-17. These workshops always meet or exceed capacity and include:
Mindful Meetup for Kids (Ages 6 – 9). This popular interactive workshop is returning for its fourth season! We’ll strengthen our Mighty Bodies with mindful movement, play games, do arts & crafts, and learn kid-friendly meditations.
Kid Yogis Stay Curious (Ages 7 – 10). Join Ms. Amy for 30 min. of yoga and 30 min. of reflective writing. How does yoga support our bodies and minds? How do we continue to grow, even in challenging times? Learn with our community of young yogis!
Mindful Meetup for Tweens (Ages 11 – 13). Join Ms. Amber and other middle schoolers as we make friends, build community, and learn from each other. You’ll see that for every unique person, there’s a mindfulness practice waiting to be discovered. This is truly a workshop for everyone.
Mindful Meetup for Teens (Ages 14 – 18) Overwhelmed by everyone’s expectations? Want to live with greater awareness and purpose? Join Ms. Amber and other teens as we explore mindfulness practices and build community. Forget what you think you know about mindfulness! There’s something here for you.
Mindful Family Night We know how important parents are in developing calm and Mighty youth. In this workshop, parents will be supported in developing mindfulness practices for their families. Wear comfortable clothes, join us with an open mind, and tune in with the whole family.
Other recent Mindfulness workshops have included:
Mindful Poetry Everywhere Ages: 11 – 13
Mighty Bodies-Grace and Glory ages 8-12
EVALUATION: Mighty Writers measure qualitative results through surveys of parents and youth which measures each students’ interest and motivation for writing, along with parental satisfaction. We adapt our work based on what the community tells us are their children’s most important needs.
Workshop goals include:
– 60% increase in stress reduction (“I am happier at school/home.”)
– 70% increase in focus and sustained attention during tasks (“I have more focus and can sit for longer periods of time.” “I can focus better on writing.”)
– 57% less emotional reactivity (“I can calm down when I’m upset.”)
– 50% increase in cognitive flexibility and greater self-perception (“I have greater self-confidence.”)
– 50% increase in relationship satisfaction and increased communication skills (“I can avoid fights and arguments.” “I can make positive decisions.”)
IN THE WORDS OF MIGHTY KIDS AND PARENTS
Here are some responses from parents to end-of-workshop survey questions:
1) How would you describe the workshop overall:
“Exceeded expectations. I was impressed with how enjoyable the activities were and how accessible the information was for them. We all looked forward to each week’s meeting and took practices taught into our daily living almost immediately.”
“It was quite an eye-opening dialogue for my daughter to engage in. I realized some of the topics I thought she had better understanding of than it seems she does, so it has created a gateway for further in-depth conversations, for which I am also very grateful. Our experience far exceeded our expectations”.
2) Which topics or practices did you find most relevant or helpful for yourself as a caregiver? For your child(ren)?
“Mindfulness and emotional intelligence. Mindful eating!”
“Taking 3 deep breaths, naming things you can see and hear. Stating I’m having a hard time, people have hard times and being compassionate with yourself”.
“I really loved learning about the Zones of Regulation. It really helped me to switch from talking about changing emotions to changing energy levels. I think this helps me in my parenting to become better at acknowledging and accepting my children’s feelings while also helping them to understand appropriate responses. I don’t want to project that any feeling is “bad” or “good”, but I didn’t have the right language for that. We talk about our energy levels daily! The zones were also quite helpful for my children.
3) Have you noticed any differences in self-expression, behavior, or interactions as a result of this workshop?
“Yes, we are able to have better conversations about frustrations and how to express that in a productive fashion”.
“Yes! I mostly explained above, but to reiterate— my daughters now tell me daily when they are in yellow energy or when they are approaching red. If someone loses control (flips their lid), they are more willing to accept help like a session of Crazy 8’s, and I am more willing and able to give it now that my mindset has shifted. We are able to self-check when our feelings are getting big before we “move to red”. It has really been life-changing for us!”
4) Do the kids have anything they’d like to say?
“My daughter wishes she could do it every day!”
“I’m actually really glad I joined teen meetups because it’s helping me understand certain things.”
“I like the workshop. It’s therapeutic. It helps me deal with my thoughts because I’m an over-thinker”.
“I like that everyone understands my struggles”. — Agreeing head nods.
“You let us be who we are, you don’t get irritated with us.”
“I really like this workshop because it feels like a family. And it gives me new ideas on how to cope with my emotions”.
“Does class have to be over? Can we just stay on?”
“How is it already 6:29?”
“I came back because Mindful Meetup is a safe space for me, where I feel like I can talk about things. There’s nowhere in school where we can talk about our mental health, and that’s just not right. Mental health is really important.”
“I came back because every time I come I learn more about mindfulness and how my brain works.”
Yeah, my mom forced me to come here because I don’t listen. But now I come because I really like it.”
Adopt & Adapt
Mindfulness programming is being implemented in K-12 throughout the country as well as Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Many schools in the Philadelphia School district have implemented both as well as yoga in their physical education.