A former primary school teacher wants to bring mindfulness into children’s lives to help combat their Covid anxiety.
According to an NHS study, the proportion of children with mental health issues in the UK is now 50% higher than it was before the pandemic.
One in six have a condition such as anxiety, depression or loneliness, a figure which has sparked widespread concern.
Nima Patel, 30, from Leicester, a psychology graduate, former primary school teacher and nursery manager, believes mindfulness is key.
She says: “As the uncertainty ensued by Covid-19 continues to reap havoc across the country, the stress experienced by children is likely to persist and we need to support and help them to understand and process their emotions. Mindfulness is a way of achieving that.”
Nima who, in her younger days, represented India in Miss Commonwealth, comes from a family devoted to childcare. Her mother Kala Patel, received an OBE for her outstanding services to childcare.
In lockdown, Nima founded Mindful Champs, a company that’s been created to bring mindfulness into the lives of children. Her ‘Mindful Me Journal’ promises to develop a growth mindset, allowing children to discover their inner world and express themselves in a positive way.
As a primary school teacher in an inner London school, Nima noticed there was a lack of mindfulness being taught within the curriculum. She quickly recognised there was not enough emphasis placed on children’s mental health, which she believes is fundamental in nurturing their emotional wellbeing.
Through her own personal challenges and having lost her father very suddenly in her twenties, she suffered from high levels of anxiety, which took a toll on her mental health.
She realised the importance of dealing with emotions healthily to feel happy inwardly. She began journaling and blog writing (@By.Nima – Instagram) to help and support others, and found the process deeply healing.
Says Nima: “One of the reasons I left teaching was because I felt that I was part of a system that wasn’t authentic. I always felt as though I was trying to push the children into tick boxes, to measure them against certain academic standards but not all children benefit from that because every child is unique.
“Many had so much more potential creatively or in sports for example, but this was not seen as important. When judged in this way only, children who were less academic would instantly lose morale and motivation. It didn’t sit well with me as a person. As a result children weren’t able to be their own authentic self and thrive in their own potential.”
Nima said many of her pupils came from areas of deprivation. “Their home lives were not always pleasant and they really needed extra support which the curriculum didn’t offer. We’re not taught how to deal with our emotions when we face challenges in life. Developing emotional intelligence is a skill that we must teach children so they can be prepared for life’s uncertainties.”
Mindful Champs therefore aims to bridge that gap and through journaling, children will learn the tools of mindfulness, to explore their emotions and hopefully enable parents to understand and connect to their children better.
The learning disciplines include addressing emotions, developing a growth mindset, practising gratitude, self love and self belief.
“As a culture and in society we are conditioned to live up to certain cultural markers and as a result, we can sometimes forget who it is we truly are. Through the journal we help children to love, understand and accept themselves fully.”
Already she’s received fantastic feedback from parents and interest from foster homes as well as a psychotherapist working within the care system.
As a teacher I used to talk to the children every day. Some of them used to come into school feeling unsettled and unprepared to start the day
“As a teacher I used to talk to the children every day. Some of them used to come into school feeling unsettled and unprepared to start the day. That’s why I think mindfulness should be taught in schools to help children ground their emotions before lessons begin and before they go home. All it takes is practising being still and having a few minutes of meditation to set the tone for the day.
“I brought a lot of these practices into our nurseries too. I called it quiet time and after break we would have 10 mins of relaxing music and children being still before starting the next activity of the day. It helped children to really ground themselves.”