As mental health among children becomes an increasing concern for health care providers and others across the country, an Amity Township woman believes she has a tool that can help.
Karen Tripolitis, who spent 30 years as a classroom teacher and has been a yoga instructor for 12 years, has developed a program to teach elementary-age children mindfulness and yoga, skills that have been shown to boost self-confidence, relieve stress, build strength and flexibility and increase self-control.
The program, called MY (mindfulness yoga) Time, also provides tools to promote self-regulation, which is a learning process in which students learn to manage their emotions and behaviors, keeping them at a level where they are best able to learn.
Tripolitis, who founded and runs Mindful Roots Yoga, has taught the MY Time program herself and trained other teachers to use it. She is convinced that it works.
“I’ve witnessed the benefits of this program personally,” she said. “I totally believe in it, and I feel a responsibility to share it.”
She recently completed a 160-page instructor’s guide. Separated into two sections, one for children ages 5 to 8 and another for children ages 9 to 12, the guide contains lesson plans, photos and drawings, daily mindfulness questions, mini-lesson plans and other tools to help instructors implement the program.
“It’s very structured and it’s easy to use,” Tripolitis explained. “It’s a program that’s very easy to implement.”
She will also offer one-day, Saturday training programs to teachers and others. Dates of trainings are Feb. 19, March 19, April 2 and 30 and May 14.
Tripolitis, who is a certified children’s mindful yoga instructor and holds various other certifications, began formalizing the program in 2019. She was already teaching it in various schools, after-school groups and other locations when she, like so many others, was sidelined by the pandemic.
When no longer able to teach, she decided to develop the instructor’s guide to give teachers and others access to the program when it could once again be implemented. While the guide is aimed at teachers, MY Time could also be used by parents, Scout leaders, social workers, library programming staff, therapists and others.
“It was very well received from all the places where we used it,” she said. “The kids, honestly, take it like a fish to water.”
As more educators are recognizing the value of Social Emotional Learning (SEL), which is the process of developing interpersonal skills that can help children succeed, Tripolitis believes programs like hers will become increasingly recognized.
“Children’s emotional and physical and social well-being are essential to everything else in their educations and lives,” she said. “Without those things, it’s like trying to build a house on a cracked foundation.”
She believes the program, which includes exercises for children in pairs and small groups, helps them to get to know one another and fosters understanding.
“They’re led to experience compassion when they’re together like that,” she said. “It’s a beautiful classroom activity.”
Feedback from parents, professionals and others has been positive.
“I’ve gotten so many emails from parents who say they notice positive changes in their children, and some of them even tell me they’ve started practicing yoga and mindfulness themselves,” she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association recently teamed up to declare a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, due primarily to stress brought on by COVID-19.
Those mental health concerns not only affect children, but teachers, families and others, as well.
“The truth is, our students and teachers are in a precarious position emotionally,” Tripolitis said. “I believe the MY Time program and others like it can help, and that’s a good thing.”
Anyone interested in learning more can sign up on the Mindful Roots website to be placed on a MY Time program mailing list. The website can be accessed at mindfulrootsyoga.com, or find Mindful Roots Yoga on Facebook.