Mindfulness training benefits homeless children

Homeless students and recently homeless students benefitted even more than other middle schoolers from an 8-week mindfulness training course,  according to a new study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies. 

A total of 63 children from two charter schools, one a traditional charter school and another that serves youth who current live or who recently lived in a homeless shelter with their families, participated in the study on The Meditation Initiative (TMI) training.  Students in the charter school for homeless students reported applying mindfulness more in their daily lives and viewed the course more favorably than their counterparts,  the study reports.

Some 86% said they either liked or loved the mindfulness class and would recommend the program to their friends. Some 79% said that mindfulness had helped them at school and was useful in managing their anger and that they planned to continue to use it in their lives.

Ratings were not as high by students at the other charter school.  Some 52% said that mindfulness had helped them at school and 56% said they would recommend the program to their friends.   Only 28% said they thought they would use mindfulness techniques in the future, with 40% of students unsure.

One student facing homelessness described how mindfulness had been beneficial: “Meditation is really helpful, because it will help you relieve stress.  When we have done meditation in the class, after I felt happier and like a whole different person because I was more  calm.  I would suggest meditation to you because I know that kids our age have a lot of drama, at school, home, or even on the streets.”

“Studies consistently find that any conditions of homelessness for youth have a wide range of social-emotional effects such as low esteem, more aggressive behaviors and non-compliance, as well as shorter attention spans, and sleep disturbances,” according to the study.

The mindfulness instructor was a graduate student in social work who had a decade of experience working with youth in mindfulness practice.  The course was delivered in 45-minute weekly sessions for 8 weeks. The instructor used 2 manuals in instruction, Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children and Still Quiet Place: Practices for Children and Adolescents to Discover Peace and Happiness.

 “Teaching Mindfulness to Middle School Students and Homeless Youth in School Classrooms,” David Viafora et al., 2015, Journal of Child and Family Studies,  Volume 24, pp. 1179-1191.

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