Mind Up program empowers kids

12/18/2019

Mind Up program empowers kids

By Sue Cody

Dec. 10, 2019

Middle school students can experience stress and anxiety about self-image, socialization, school matters, family issues and much more. Learning how to regulate their emotions and behavior is key to leading a healthy life.


Mind Up photo


Students at Warrenton in sixth to eighth grades are participating in a Mind Up afterschool program taught by Jessica Morrow. The program, based in neuroscience, teaches the skills necessary for positive relationships, self-worth and ways to regulate stress and emotions.


Many of these students have a difficult home life. After seeing what they need, Jessica adjusts the curriculum to focus on their mental, emotional, social and physical needs and how they are all connected.


She says the students are vulnerable because they are transitioning to high school. “They have smartphones, they have social media. The exposure to all of that is gigantic. There is so much emotional need for these kids to connect, to be seen, to be heard, to be paid attention to.”


Mind Up addresses those needs by providing nutritional snacks and focusing on meditation, yoga and lessons on social media, mental health, body image, bullying and well-being.


She encourages students by saying, “I hear you. I want to listen to you. You are important to me and your presence is important in this group. I want you to be here.”


Challenges


Helping kids become aware of how their comments affect others is challenging, Jessica says. For instance, one child may comment on how someone else looks. Jessica points out how that makes the targeted child feel. “That is unacceptable,” she tells the child. “You need to apologize.”


Cultivating acceptance and self-acceptance is crucial, Jessica says. When a girl was crying over a crush that was not reciprocated, she told Jessica she was crying over stupid stuff. Jessica responded that it is fine to feel sadness. “It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and not hold it in,” she says.


Another student felt ugly. “If no one interrupts that self-derogatory talk, it will only get worse as they enter high school,” Jessica says.


The program also addresses the impact of social media. “There are times you can do social media, but … recognize when you need to get off social media for your overall health and thinking,” Jessica says.


“When they are leaving, I try to tell each kid, ‘I love having you in this group. Your presence in this group is important because you bring something to this group that no one else does.’”


Empowerment


Teaching kids to accept and empower themselves is a featured goal of Mind Up.


Using a Big Life Journal helps kids create goals bigger than what they think they can achieve. Jessica says kids don’t have to limit themselves. They can push beyond mental barriers. They can set a goal and prepare a pathway.


Jackie Welborn, a former school nurse at Warrenton, reports that kids are excited to attend Mind Up. Teachers say the program helped open up cliques, and kids were talking more in the classroom. They even went to activities together.


Jessica hopes to expand the program from one-hour a week to five days a week. The Mind Up program will resume in Warrenton on January 28. It will also serve 50 students at Gearhart Elementary School.