with Tara Cousineau
Surveys reveal a concerning trend among youth toward valuing achievement, fame, and happiness over kindness and caring. At the same time stress levels among adolescents are at a high, mirroring that of the adults around them. What if teenagers were trained to learn mindfulness and compassion skills for themselves so they could teach similar skills to young children, creating a virtuous cycle of caring?
Inspired by the growing evidence of mindfulness and kindness curriculums, and the philosophy that teachers must practice and embody the skills for their own wellbeing, a “train-the-trainer” pilot study was conducted in a public high school outside of Boston with an embedded preschool program. Twenty high school students in a year-long Child Study course served as the preschool teachers. The study goals included: (1) Coaching the teen teachers in basic mindfulness skills over six weekly sessions, adapted from the Learn to Breathe program, and (2) matching select skills from an SEL curriculum approved by the school district to craft a kindness curriculum, which the teens then taught to the preschoolers, e.g., belly breathing, empathy, and emotional regulation.
The breakout session will describe (a) the pilot program and pre-post results including teen feedback; (b) the unique challenges in collaborating with school administrators and teachers for innovative programs; and (c) cultivating classroom environments that encourage mindfulness and compassion as part of school culture. This pilot served a proof-of-concept community study with the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, Cambridge Health Alliance, MA.
Tara Cousineau, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and researcher. Her expertise spans child and adolescent health, women’s health, mind-body medicine, and the use of innovative technologies to promote positive coping and wellbeing. She is the founder of BodiMojo, Inc., a health communications research firm that develops and evaluates wellness interventions for youth and families. BodiMojo is a recipient of numerous innovation grants from the National Institutes of Health’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. With research partner, Elizabeth Donovan, PhD, the BodiMojo team is collaborating with UCLA’s Pediatric Pain clinic to pilot the use of mobile technologies in fostering self-management among youth, including those with cancer and IBS. Dr. Cousineau is a 2016-2017 Community Leadership Fellow at the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, Cambridge Health Alliance, in Somerville, MA. She is participating a two-year mindfulness teacher training program with Tara Brach, PhD, and Jack Kornfield, PhD. She is a former global advisor to the Dove Self-Esteem Project with the social mission to improve girl’s body confidence, and co-author of DSEP’s Mindful Me educational materials. She contributes to several blogs including the Huffington Post, bodimojo.com, and taracousineau.com, and has been quoted in Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Brides, Seventeen, Dove’s Self Esteem website. She is currently writing a book, The Kindness Cure (New Harbinger Publications, 2018). She lives with her husband and two teenage daughters outside of Boston, MA.