Mindfulness with Youth

There are now many approaches and programs for teaching mindfulness  with youth – some programs adhere to the same good practice guidance as the adult MBSR /MBCT programs, while others do not. There are fundamental elements to good practice for teaching mindfulness to anyone – these include 

  • * the teacher’s own experience and personal practice of mindfulness

  • * a structured and sequenced curriculum, that ‘teaches’ mindfulness concepts and understanding in a developmentally appropriate manner, and scaffolds the participants’  learning, assisting them to make sense of what they experience in mindfulness practices (i.e., not totally reliant on ‘just’ recordemindfulness audio practices)

  • * a solid understanding of research base of the program 

  • * teachers’ explicit training in the curriculum and pedagogy of the program

I have trained in quite a number of youth mindfulness programs. My experience researching, writing and teaching mindfulness  since 2008, and more than 20 years teaching and counselling in schools, have given me an informed overview of the available approaches and programs for teaching mindfulness with youth.

To date,  the Mindfulness in Schools Programs (MISP) (UK) stand out as leaders in the field of curriculum development, research and good practice.

I am a Certified teacher of the Primary School MISP program, Paws b – Pause and Be – (Stage 2 – Stage 3) and the High School MISP program, .b – Stop and Be – (Stages 4-6). These programs can be offered within school settings, and as after-school group programs.

I am currently teaching the MISP programs in schools in Sydney. 

If you would like to discuss either of the programs to be delivered in your school (or your child’s school), or as an after school program, please contact me, on (02) 8005 1367, or email info@mindful-well-being.com or via the Contacts page

MISP is a not for profit organisation. For full details about the MISP programs, research and training, please visit http://mindfulnessinschools.org 

 Trained-To-Teach-dot-B copy Trained-To-Teach-Paws-B copy

Mindfulness with Youth – Background

There has been a rapid recent growth in interest in sharing mindfulness with children and adolescents, particularly in school settings. It’s likely that much of this interest has sprung from the well-established Mindfulness-Based adult programs, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based (MBCT). MBSR and MBCT have developed a strong research evidence-base over three decades, which supports these programs’ efficacy for adults, particularly in improving psychological health and well-being, and managing stress effectively.
DSCN2628The field of child and adolescent Mindfulness-Based interventions is, by comparison, still in its infancy. The very first research studies were published in 2005, and in 2014, there are less than fifty published studies of Mindfulness-Based interventions with youth (compared to over a thousand adult studies). There is, however, emerging evidence suggesting that if taught effectively, and practiced regularly, mindfulness may offer beneficial effects for children and adolescents’ psychological health and well-being.

For people interested in sharing or teaching mindfulness with children and teens, it is suggested that one needs to have a good understanding of this new and emerging field. This includes knowledge about the current research evidence, the range of Mindfulness-Based programs available, training pathways to teaching Mindfulness-Based programs, and an understanding of what “Good Practice” might entail. And even more importantly, before deciding that teaching mindfulness to children or teens may be a good ‘idea’, try it out for yourself. We can’t actually learn about – or teach – mindfulness authentically from reading about mindfulness, or from a book. Mindfulness is experiential – the only way to really know mindfulness is through our own experience of mindfulness.

It is valuable to note here that to teach Mindfulness-Based programs to adults, such as MBSR and MBCT courses, teachers first and foremost are required to have an established personal practice of mindfulness meditation, prior to specific training to teach the program. A personal mindfulness practice is usually established by participating in an 8-week adult MBSR, MBCT or equivalent course, and an ongoing, regular mindfulness meditation practice. If teaching Mindfulness to adults requires teachers to have a depth of personal experience, understanding and training in Mindfulness, doesn’t it stand to reason that teaching mindfulness to children and teens would also require teachers with an equivalent level of personal experience and understanding?

Mindfulness Programs for Children and Teens

There are a number of excellent mindfulness programs suitable for schools and community settings which have been developed

DSCN0673with direct adherence to a model of Good Practice, and draw authentically on the foundational programs of MBSR and MBCT.

* Mindful Schools (USA)  offer primary and high school aged versions of their program. Teaching mindfulness to children and teens first requires the teacher to have developed their own mindfulness practice. Training is available  online, and internationally . To learn more about Mindful Schools, their research and how to train to teach the Mindful Schools curriculum, visit their website: http://www.mindfulschools.org

* MiSP – Mindfulness in Schools Project (UK) have an established adolescent mindfulness program, called .b  (Dot be), and a newly developed program called Paws b for primary school children. A recent research study published of the .b program indicates that students aged 12-16, who participated in .b demonstrated significant improvements in their self reported depressive symptoms, and at 3 month follow up, these students also demonstrated significant gains, in  self rated well-being, and lower self rated stress, as well as maintaining lower depressive symptoms, compared to the control group of students. The full study, Kuyken et al, 2013, is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

To train to teach .b or Paws b, it is a pre requisite that teachers have completed an adult 8 week mindfulness course, have an established personal practice of at least 6 months, and then undertake a 4 day training program. Training in the .b curriculum will be offered for the second time in Australia, in Adelaide October 2016, training also held in Phuket, USA, EU and UK.  To learn more about .b and Paws b visit the website http://mindfulnessinschools.org

There are a number of other quality universal mindfulness programs for children and teens, including Still Quiet Place (Amy Saltzman), Meditation Capsules (Janet Etty-Leal), Learning to Breathe (Broderick & Metz), and Inner Kids (Susan Kaiser Greenland), and a  clinical program developed for children with anxiety, MBCT-C (Semple and Lee, 2012).

If  you are in a school, health or community setting around Sydney, and are interested in a workshop presentation on  Mindfulness for Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research and Practice, or to discuss how the MISP programs can be delivered in your school, please contact Chrissie Burke, via the Contacts page, email  info@mindful-well-being.com


The research evidence base for mindfulness with youth populations is in early development, and there is much to learn about how we can optimally implement mindfulness programs effectively. In 2009, there were only 15 studies published, now in 2015 this number has tripled, to around 50 studies. However, the current research continues to lack empirically robust studies, with few Randomised Control Trials (RCTs), or large sample sizes or active control groups. It is not yet possible to confirm evidence-based status for youth mindfulness-based interventions, however there are dedicated mindfulness practitioners, teachers and researchers who are working towards developing the evidence base.

As an introduction to the research in this field, you may find the following articles of interest.

The first is the inaugural research review of this emergent field which I published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, 2010.  Burke 2010

As a co-author with an international team of collaborators, we also published a further review in 2012, titled Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education : Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students Meiklejohn et al 2012

In 2014, the first meta-analysis of child and adolescent mindfulness-based interventions was  published. Meta-analyses compile all the published empirical studies and combine results to provide an overall effect size of an intervention. The meta-analysis found an overall small effect size of 0.22, for the mindfulness interventions, compared to active control conditions. Interestingly,a comparison of clinical samples vs non clinical (universal) samples, indicated that  the effect size was greater for clinical samples (0.50) , than non clinical samples (0.197). Outcome measures of psychological symptoms were also greater than measures of any other dependent variable (0.373 vs 0.207). For the full article see Zoogman et al 2014 meta-anlysis


 Mindfulness and Well-being : Children and Adolescents

A recent book chapter publication explores this area : Burke, C. 2014. An Exploration of the Effects of Mindfulness Training and Practice in Association with Enhanced Wellbeing for Children and Adolescents. Wellbeing. 6:1:4:1–44.  doi.org/10.1002/9781118539415.wbwell039