Mindfulness Intervention Improves Mood, Behavior in Underserved Elementary School Students

A multi-ethnic group of young school children are indoors in their classroom. They are sitting on pillows and meditating.
Intervention targeting internal self-regulation and attentional pathways improves emotional regulation and behavior in at-risk students.

A nurse practitioner (NP)-led, mindfulness-based intervention for underserved elementary students led to improvements in emotional regulation and behavior, explained Cara C. Young, PhD, RN, FNP-C, FAANP, FAAN, in a poster session at the 2022 American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) National Conference held June 21 to June 26, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.

Mindfulness-based interventions improve emotional regulation and behavior by targeting internal self-regulation and attentional pathways, explained Dr Young, who is a family nurse practitioner, nurse researcher, and associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. The study was designed to investigate the effects of the standardized mindfulness-based intervention A Still Quiet Place when used in at-risk, predominantly Hispanic (75%) elementary school students in fourth and fifth grades (N=16) before they transitioned from elementary to middle school.

The mindfulness sessions were conducted after school hours. The A Still Quiet Place program is an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program designed for therapists, teachers, and other professionals to use with children and adolescents. A majority of the students (88%) completed the intervention. Outcomes were based on parent reports.

Strengths of Mindfulness Training in Students

The majority of parents reported improvement in their child’s mood, attitude, and behavior (ie, sibling and family interactions) at home. Examples of behavior changes reported by parents included the following:

  • “…it changed a lot because from that point on she does spend more time with her brother and everything has been normal, and she focuses more on other things.”
  • “She does communicate more. Like she tells me what’s going on in school or if anything is bothering her, or if she is having problems she’ll come to me and she’ll tell me.”
Dr Cara Young presents research on mindfulness training in at-risk children at AANP 2022.

Parents said they appreciated the movement and stillness practices, take-home materials, and after-school timing. Parents also suggested the need for improved feedback loops, additional parent-involved group sessions, and the ability to track mindfulness homework. School staff reported “excitement of the children in their participation” in the mindfulness training and noted logistical challenges with implementation, Dr Young said.

The benefits of an NP-school partnership during mindfulness training in this population include the potential for increased identification of at-risk students in need of health care services and for the NP to act as an advocate and liaison to ensure that additional services are provided to students in need, Dr Young said.

“There are so many children experiencing stress due to the pandemic and other environmental influences,” commented Mary Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PPCNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP, clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook University School of Nursing in Stony Brook, New York. “Underserved children often do not have access to therapies that could relieve and prevent escalation of their stress. This poster really stood out because it offered an NP-developed paradigm to the community that was relatively easy to implement and clearly had positive measurable effects on the children’s emotional regulation and behavior,” she said.

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Young CC. A Still Quiet Place: a nurse practitioner-led mindfulness-based intervention for underserved elementary youth. Poster presented at: AANP 2022; June 21-26, 2022; Orlando, Fl. 

This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor