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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Children's Authors Discuss Mindfulness, Compassion, and SEL

posted by Catharine Hannay

Over the past few years, I've had the pleasure of discussing mindfulness, compassion, and SEL with many children's authors and author/illustrators. 

I thought it would be useful to gather all of these interviews in one place. That way, you can:
  • learn about best practices in teaching mindfulness to kids;
  • find out how these authors practice mindfulness themselves; and
  • discover new books for your students or your own children to enjoy. 

"It’s easy to forget to be grateful for the good things that happen during a day marred by one or two tough moments. It’s just as easy to avoid acknowledging the tough parts of a day. [...] Mindfulness and social-emotional learning is not going to make tough days go away. We want to develop the ability to face them honestly and squarely and to have the skills to move on in a healthy manner."
Interview with Noah Teitelbaum, author of Munchy and Jumpy Tales, illustrated stories teaching gratitude, diversity, inclusion, and equity. 

"Mindfulness really is inseparable from ethics, because we can’t reduce suffering (of ourselves or others) unless we look at everything and everybody as interconnected. Collective suffering is our own suffering—-but so is collective healing."
Interview with Jade Bryan, author/illustrator oDragon Girl, a children's book based on the Lotus Sutra and traditional Buddhist cave paintings.

"The more I practice mindfulness, the more I can engage with people who are different from me, who maybe in the past I would have ignored or gotten carried away by their influence. Now I am surer of who I am and therefore more willing to listen with equanimity, whoever they are. "
Interview with Chelo Manchego, author/illustrator of The Want Monsters and How They Stopped Ruling My World and Little Royal: A Fish Tale.

"The practice of self-acceptance allows us to embrace our whole being and what makes us unique... It's important to embrace each moment with an open mind and nurture an environment where students feel safe to explore their learning... [and where] teachers become aware of and connect with their students' diverse and changing needs."
Interview with Sarah Kraftchuk, author of Love to Be Me!I Am. Magical Me!, and The Hue in You.

Children's Author Teaches Yoga, Mindfulness, and Compassion
"The practices of mindfulness and yoga are really ones that we embody, not just engage in at a distance. They are ways of being in the world. When I work with kids doing yoga and mindfulness they become the practice. When we are in tree pose they are trees…exploring how it feels in their minds and bodies." 
Interview with Susan Verde, author of I Am YogaI Am Peace, and The Water Princess.

"There is so much emphasis on achievement that when children fail it leads to disappointment, frustration and shame. And those aren’t motivators to keep trying. Failing often leads to quitting and lack of self-worth... When a child is distraught about what they can’t do, remind them of all the wonderful things they CAN do and have LEARNED to do, and the wonderful qualities that make them who they ARE."
Interview with Tamara Levitt, author of Happiness Doesn't Come from Headstands and The Secret to Clara's Calm.

Mindfulness Helps Kids and Adults Handle Stress
"We may not have control over the situation, but we do have complete control in our response. My grandmother used to tell me as a child, 'we cannot stop birds from flying over our heads, but we most certainly can stop them from building nests in our hair'.” 
Interview with Florenza Lee, author of The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog.

"We don’t want to ignore [negative thoughts] or magic them away, but we do want to offer another, more positive perspective. When parents or carers (caregivers) connect and show love at bedtime they counteract the difficult moments of the day, sending the kids to sleep feeling safe, loved and like they matter.  Then they can wake into natural confidence and self-esteem."
Interview with Andrew Newman, author of an award-winning series of Conscious Stories for children.  

Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Children and Healers
"The key is to not overwhelm young kids with too much information. Having a visual tool to aid understanding is very helpful when explaining something that can be conceptually abstract even for adults. I blow soap bubbles to show that thoughts and feelings are like bubbles—they float in and out and pop—and new ones come along."
Interview with Dr. Heather Krantz, author of Mind Bubbles: Exploring Mindfulness with Kids and Heart Bubbles: Exploring Compassion with Kids.

"Using our mind to help focus our body is an essential skill I strive to teach my kids each and every day in whatever they are doing. The breathing techniques in And She Said Breathe are the same ones that I teach throughout the year and we use daily for different purposes – whether that is to calm down, relax, gain energy, or just plain release some energy."
Interview with Kathy Marvel, author of And She Said Breathe.

A New Series of Mindfulness Books for Kids
"Children need a guiding voice in their books that will entertain them, remind them that they are loved, assure them that they are beautiful and unique just the way they are, and give them something for their "coping toolbox" when they face strong emotions or challenges."
Interview with Tracy Bryan, creator of a series of photo-illustrated mindfulness books for kids.

"Shifting our awareness to the lens of a bodily sense helps with becoming more embodied beings, and allows us to drop the mental chatter.  I find it impossible to create anything, to connect to any form of inspiration if I’m not able to first feel my body, the temperature, hear the sounds, etc."
Interview with singer Sarah Lessire, author of The Scent of Dreams.

Multiple Intelligences Lead to Mindfulness
"We are all born with multiple intelligences, and we use them to help us be aware of the present moment. We use... our Naturalist intelligence to be cognizant of the natural world around us... our Intrapersonal intelligence to know our inner self... our Visual Spatial-Visual intelligence to see the visual images surrounding us..."
Interview with Kathleen Hackett, author of Mindfulness! Not Mind Full Nest!

"The teacher’s own mindfulness practice is key to effective teaching of it, and helping children strengthen their inner resources through mindfulness is particularly important to building their independence."
interview with Christiane Kerr of Calm for Kids and former human rights lawyer Mark Pallis, authors of Crab and Whalea mindfulness story for children aged 2-8.

You can see even more perspectives on teaching mindfulness to kids in the following interviews:

And there are hundreds more posts here at on mindfulness, compassion, SEL, and self-care, including:

Catharine Hannay is the founder of and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance. (Sales of the book help me continue to run with no sponsorship or advertising.)