February 1, 2018

How Mindfulness at Friends School Can Save You Money

Guest blogger: Lou Bendrick
Please welcome a guest blogger this week: Lou Bendrick is our Director of Development and a long-time Friends School parent. She is the mother of 5th grader Coulter.

When I’m signing the check for my next tuition bill, here’s what I hope to remember: I’m saving money!

The savings will come down the road— in a not-too-distant future—when my son, now in 5th grade , won’t need a lot of pricey therapy.

I’m not saying that sending kids to another school will set them on a criminal path. And there’s no guarantee that Friends School leads to canonization or Nobel Prizes. I will assert that the social-emotional skills that kids learn here will give them a serious leg up in life. Academic skills are important. But academic skills won’t help children cope with stress. Only social emotional skills can help humans know themselves, love themselves and make healthy choices. It is the so-called “soft” skills that make people strong in a complicated world.

All of this was sharply affirmed for me during the recent parent workshop: “Mindfulness in Education: Head, Hand and Heart” taught by third grade teacher, Krysten Fort-Catanese who was the founding director of Social Emotional Learning and Mindfulness at an international school in Thailand for seven years before she landed here.

2nd grade teacher
Krysten Fort-Catanese
Her workshop gave me goose bumps.

What Krysten was teaching—meditation and mindfulness practices grounded by neuroscience—wasn’t completely new to me.  I have a daily meditation and gratitude practice that has been transformative for my peace of mind, clarity and effectiveness. But this practice came to me in mid-
life, after lots of soul-searching —and pricey therapy.

The goose bumps came with the realization that lucky Friends School kids are getting these incredible skills in elementary school. Look out, world!

One of things that Krysten teaches is that when we emotionally “flip our lid,” we literally get stuck in the primitive flight-or-fight part of the brain called the amygdala, where no reasoning occurs. Mindfulness practices that incorporate breathing bring us back to the present moment and into the frontal lobe of our brain, where our reasoning skills reside.

A mom in the workshop, whose son happens to be in Krysten’s class, shared that he overheard a conversation about a toddler throwing tantrums. 

“She’s in her amygdala,” her son observed.

This boy is in third grade.  Third grade! He went on to suggest belly breathing for the toddler. So that she could get her back into her frontal lobe.

Can you imagine a world in which all kids have these life skills?  What if even half of all adults could, as Krysten suggests, “season” their day with mindfulness? My frontal lobe reels with the possibility of a more peaceful and just planet.

As a parent, I know that we can’t insulate our children from life’s challenges and tribulations, nor do we want to. But I do want my kids to have a fully stocked toolbox of skills to navigate what life will inevitably throw at them.  I want my kids to know what an amygdala is, and how to know when it’s holding them hostage.  

Needless to say, my gratitude practice these days includes Friends School.

And Krysten Fort-Cantanese.

And the money I’ll save because of Friends School!  

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