Thesis Open Access

I BREATHE THE WORDS: Childhood Mindfulness in Daily Life, a Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study

Terrizzi, Joanie

Thesis supervisor(s)

Ladd, Walker; Goslin-Jones, Terri; Smyth, Cliff

Mindfulness, the intentional practice and result of paying attention, on purpose, to one’s moment-by-moment experience, without judgment (Kabat-Zinn, 1994), is a promising adjunct intervention for children addressing a variety of academic, behavioral, psychological, and somatic challenges. This qualitative study explored the child’s lived experience applying mindfulness skills to daily life to address a gap in the research, deepening a collective understanding of children’s lived experiences practicing mindfulness. This study aimed to fill this gap in the literature by exploring the essence of this phenomenon through the text of many children’s experiences. This work answered the research question, “What is the child’s experience of using mindfulness in daily life?”

Hermeneutic phenomenology was the methodology for this work as it focused on the lived experience of children and the lens that my unique lived experience as a mindfulness educator and researcher offers. Thus, I hermeneutically analyzed 1,136 quotations from children found in my reflective teaching notes during 2014–2018, before this study’s inception, in response to the question, “How did you use your mindfulness in the last week?”

This work offers a literature review that provides a foundational definition, an in-depth exploration of the components of mindfulness, the impact of mindfulness on the brain, developmental theory, trauma and ACEs, mindfulness interventions that take place both in and out of school, the involvement of parents and teachers in students learning mindfulness, awareness and regulation practices, the impact of regular practice, participant benefit, and the impact of self-selective participation. Thematic analysis, largely informed by van Manen’s (1990) work, brought to light findings relevant to these areas.

This study’s findings established that children’s experiences with mindfulness allowed them to stay with their experiences, navigate circumstances and relationships, regulate emotional overwhelm, enact confidence and care, and thrive and blossom during the particular parameters of childhood. This work offers these findings alongside a detailed discussion.

Mindfulness education for children benefits both children and the parents and teachers who nurture them. Findings from this work may offer support for social-emotional learning SEL work; implications for future research set these results in a context for the broader research community.

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