Radford School Psychology professors, graduate students take mindfulness curriculum to local parents and students

Graduate students assist with the mindfulness curriculum.
Graduate students assist with the mindfulness curriculum.

Being mindful of yourself and of those around you – that is easier said than done. But that’s exactly what two Radford University professors and four graduate students set out to do last fall.

Through a King Foundation grant, School Psychology Assistant Professor Melinda Cruz and Associate Director of Center for Assessment and Psychological Services Emily Dove worked hands-on with local parents and children to teach mindfulness strategies to help parents handle all the challenges that arise while raising children.

“Children have relationships with their parents, their peers and their teachers. There’s a lot more to them being successful in school than just being present in a room,” Dove said. “That’s why we thought providing support for the parent-child relationship was an important area to address and mindfulness is a tool that has shown evidence for strengthening this relationship.”

The goals of the parent mindfulness program were to address parental stress, increase compassion for themselves and their children, improve satisfaction with parenting and increase listening.

Because the mindful principles of openness and non-judgement were embraced, the program structure was friendly for parents who may be on the fence about participating in a group session.

“In order to have a successful parent training, it often is helpful to have things like a meal and also provide some form of child care so that they can attend,” Cruz said.

That’s where the school psychology graduate students stepped in.

Four first-year graduate students facilitated sessions with the children ages 5 to 14 that incorporated mindfulness components similar to those the parents were being taught by Cruz and Dove.

“The graduate students used some of the mindfulness techniques that were embedded in hands-on activities with the kids,” Dove said. “I think that was a really good experience for them; not just talking about some of the ideas and principles that we cover, but actually putting [those concepts] into practice.”

An additional goal of the graduate students’ involvement was building early relationships and experiences with local school divisions.

“This gave the graduate students an early glimpse into working with a group of kids, incorporating behavior management and gaining some insight into what teachers struggle with when they have to manage different behaviors,” Cruz said. “It was good for them to see the different ways we can provide services in the schools as school psychologists.”

While Cruz and Dove are still analyzing the data from the sessions, informally, the parents expressed improvement in their awareness and recognition of emotional or stress-based responses.

“Some of the strategies were focused on taking care of themselves and developing self-compassion so they could be available to take care of their child,” Cruz said.

Both Cruz and Dove hope to continue the parent mindfulness sessions in the future.

Feb 25, 2019
Max Esterhuizen