Some things in the world are scary. It would be nice if you could just make those scary things and scary feelings go away, but sometimes you can’t. Some stuff is beyond your control. What you can control, however, is your response to fear and the ways you take care of yourself during these scary times.
This lesson focuses on what fear feels like, different ways people respond to it, and steps anyone can take to help manage fear and learn to live with scary things.
What is fear? Fear is a response to things that scare you. It can be helpful because it can alert you to danger. It can be harmful if you over react.
What does fear feel like? Fear feels different to each person, but there are some things that are pretty common:
What does fear make you do? Each person responds differently to different fears, but typically reactions fall into one of three categories: FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE.
Fight, Flight, Freeze or Forget It
Tell young people that you are going to learn about and practice three things they can do when they are feeling fear. These three actions can help them feel better even if they can’t make the scary thing go away. Describe each of them, one at a time, and practice as you go.
Fat is an important nutrient, but you only need small amounts each day. It gives you energy and helps your body grow. Here are some of the important jobs fats do:
• Give you energy: During exercise your body uses carbohydrates for fuel for about 20 minutes. After that your body depends on fat to keep going.
• Keeps your skin and hair healthy.
• Helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.
• Fills your fat cells and helps keep you warm.
• Helps your brain grow and adapt as you learn new information and have new experiences.
• Helps regulate blood sugar so your energy level stays even instead of bouncing all over the place.
• Keeps you feeling satisfied so you don’t overeat.
Not all fats are “good” fats:
Trans fats are made when vegetable oils are processed (or hydrogenated) into shortening and stick margarine. Sources of trans fats include snack foods, baked goods and fried foods made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening.”
Try to limit foods made with these ingredients. Trans fats can raise your cholesterol.
Saturated fats are most often found in foods that are solid at room temperature, like butter, cheese, palm and coconut oil and red meats.
Limit the amount of saturated fat and trans fat you have each day. This will help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unsaturated fats, the healthy types of fats, come from both animal and plant products. There are two types:
This lesson introduces young people to the importance of including fats in their diets and choosing the most healthful types.
Lead a conversation based on the following questions:
Introduce the types of fats: Trans fats, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (use the information above).
Prepare a sampling of snack options with healthy fats, such as: walnuts or other nuts, olives, bread dipped in olive oil, dark chocolate, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, vegetables dipped in hummus made with healthy fats (be sure to check the label).
Invite young people to complete the healthy fats word find while enjoying tasting the different foods.
Lead a reflection discussion:
Close by letting young people know that in addition to healthy fats, their bodies need protein and carbohydrates (such as vegetables and fruits) as well. It’s recommended that fats make up about 25 to 30 percent of a person’s daily calorie intake. Consider following this lesson with the Health Powered Kids lesson on learning to read nutrition labels.
Recent research has found that exercise, particularly aerobic activity that involves an element of coordination, has benefits for young people that go far beyond fitness.
Aerobic activity is any physical activity that increases your heart rate and breathing. It helps improve your heart and lung fitness. Some examples include brisk walking, hiking, jogging/running, biking, swimming, rowing, jumping rope, dancing and aerobics class.
Physical activity has many benefits. In addition to helping build strong bones and muscles, regular physical activity can:
Studies have found that young people who participate in even 10 minutes of exercise before a test or other academic activity performed better on those tasks than young people who did not exercise. Other studies have found that young people who participate in physical activity consistently have more academic success than their peers who participate less.
For this lesson, the focus is on empowering young people to exercise regardless of their fitness baseline.
Ask young people a series of questions about exercise: Do they like it? What kinds of exercise do they do or do they know that other people do? What are some of the benefits of exercise?
Then introduce the Exercise-Brain Connection and highlight the following points:
• Exercise is good for your body; it helps keep your heart and other muscles strong, your organs working well and your bones healthy.
• Exercise is also good for your mood: exercising can help improve your mood by reducing stress and anxiety.
• Exercise is good for your brain! Not as many people know this, but exercise can help you focus, problem solve, and remember information and ideas.
Then explain that over the next week your class/group will be doing a research study of your own. Here are the steps:
• Each young person will receive a Your Brain After Exercise tracking sheet.
• For one week, young people should rate how well they think they performed on their homework or brain games and track whether or not they exercised beforehand.
• You can provide age-appropriate activities such as word finds, cryptograms, Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles or online brain games. A simple internet search will provide a variety of resources!
• Encourage young people to exercise for at least 10 minutes sometimes before performing the task, and sometimes not.
Ask young people to take out their tracking sheets. Talk about how the week went, what they noticed, what questions they have.
Then create a bar chart showing the results of your study:
• Your X-axis will have two variables: “Yes, I exercised before task” and “No, I did not exercise before task.”
• Your Y-axis will have five variables: the ratings on how they think they performed on their assignments.
• Find the average of all the ratings for times when they did at least 10 minutes of exercise and make that average the first bar.
• Find the average for all the ratings for times when they didn’t do at least 10 minutes of exercise and make that average the second bar.
• Talk about what the bar chart shows. Is there a difference? Why do you think that is so? Did you notice a difference for yourself between times when you exercised and when you didn’t?
Remind young people that research has shown that exercise has a positive impact on brain function and encourage them to make exercise part of their regular routine.
Young people take a walk and then reflect on what they saw, heard, thought about and felt during the walk. Three year olds are going to have a very different experience of this activity than eight year olds, so adjust your instructions and expectations accordingly.
A nice practice in mindfulness is gratitude. At the end of your activity, thank young people for participating and express your appreciation for some aspect of what happened.
Young people begin to learn about mindfulness practice by learning and then moving through a series of yoga poses.
Relaxed Monkey Pose
Sea Turtle Deep Relaxation
Move through the eight poses in a guided sequence.
At the end of Sea Turtle, give young people time to slowly sit back up. Ask each person to share with the group one thing they noticed during their yoga practice. Thank everyone for participating.
A nice practice in mindfulness is gratitude. At the end of your activity, thank young people for participating and express your appreciation for some aspect of what happened.
This short lesson is aimed at helping young people develop an attitude of gratitude. Research shows that gratitude helps people be happier and deal with stress better.
Talk with the youth about how being grateful for the things in their lives can help increase their happiness and decrease stress.
Ask them what they think it means to be grateful. They might say that it means thankful, appreciating what they have, or feeling pleased or content. If no youth offer ideas, prompt them with these ideas or your own.
But feeling grateful isn’t always easy and isn’t something that everyone does naturally. It’s pretty easy to compare yourself to those around you and wish you had what they had, or to focus on the challenges and frustrations in your lives.
Being grateful is a muscle you can build. Just like you learn or develop a new skill or strength through practice, you can improve your attitude of gratitude by working on it a little bit each day.
Ask young people to think about these perspectives:
Give youth a chance to respond. Then talk about that there are more than six million people in the world who don’t have clean water for drinking, cooking, or cleaning themselves. Many people who don’t have these things end up getting sick because of it.
More than 1/3 of people living in the world today don’t have access to a working toilet? Talk about what people might do if they don’t have a working toilet. Some of these people have to use a hole in the ground. Others use an outhouse or something similar.
Sometimes we get so used to things that help keep us comfortable, safe and healthy, that we forgot to be grateful for them. These things are overlooked blessings.
Together as a class, make a list of overlooked blessings…things that you take for granted but for which, when you stop and think, you are grateful.
Post the list somewhere where everyone can see it regularly as a reminder.
Do a guided gratitude meditation together: http://www.changetochill.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Change_to_Chill_Gratitude.mp3
Distribute the Three Good Things worksheet. Encourage young people to continue to build their “gratitude muscles” by using the worksheet to help remind them of the good things in their lives.
Keep the list up for as long as seems helpful. Consider also sharing the ideas through social media or school or community resources.
Additional information about gratitude: http://www.changetochill.org/how-can-i/gratitude/
This short lesson is aimed at getting youth to think about their responses to stressful or challenging situations, and to respond positively rather than by adding to the difficulty.
2. Talk briefly about what they noticed and what they thought about these two videos. Ask if anyone has any questions about them.
3. Then ask about stress:
4. Then talk about how the videos mention “mindfulness” and “Change to Chill.” Ask youth if they’ve ever heard those terms before and what they think they mean. Talk about their ideas and share your own.
5. Show the youth the pens, sticky notes and wall space. Explain that as a group you are going to write as many ideas as you can about how to stress less or deal with stress when it comes up. Give some examples like, “go for a run,” “listen to music,” or “make slime with your friends.”
6. Give youth a chance to post their own ideas and read through others. Talk briefly about:
Keep the wall of notes up for as long as seems helpful. Consider also sharing the ideas through social media or school resources.
This short lesson is aimed at encouraging youth to think positively about meditation and other relaxation activities, and help reduce the stigma around mental health self-care.
Let young people know that they will be trying a short meditation today. Meditation is a strategy for reducing stress and promoting mental wellness. Ask the group what stereotypes they can think of about meditation, either positive or negative.
Introduce the idea of stigma:
Talk about types of stigma.
Ask students to talk about different types of stigma. Can they think of any examples of stigma based on negative stereotypes?
There is definitely some stigma in U.S. culture about people who have stress and related problems such as anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions. People may make jokes such as “forgetting to take your meds.”
These negative judgments can carry over to the things people do to take care of their mental well-being. Some people practice meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Other people think those things are silly or weird. Talk with youth about whether they or anyone they know does any of these things, and whether in their experiences there is stigma about them.
The truth is that these kinds of practices, what’s sometimes known as mindfulness, are really awesome for overall health, and can help with many things beyond just promoting mental wellness, including doing well in school, sports and music. They can also help you feel good about yourself, and even lead you to better relationships with friends and family.
Ask if anyone in the group knows any breathing exercises or yoga poses or other things related to meditation, mindfulness, and mental wellness. If young people have things they want to share, let them demonstrate or lead the group.
Introduce the Head to Toe meditation. Encourage young people to set aside any pre-existing judgements they might have and just give it a try.
Meditate with the group (you can play the audio or read the script yourself).
Give people a few minutes to just rest and relax after the meditation. Then pull the group back together and ask:
Finally, thank the group for being part of reducing stigma about mental wellness and taking care of themselves. Encourage them to keep doing that because it’s good for them and for other people they care about.
If your group does well with this, consider trying some of the other meditations available on Change to Chill, perhaps including a regular time during the week for a short meditation or other mindfulness practice.
There’s lots of talk in the world of parenting about the importance of connecting as a family at mealtime, with good reason. Research shows that some of the benefits can include:
Very rarely do adults encourage young people to take the initiative when it comes to family dinner (or another meal); the focus is typically on parents. This lesson helps young people become leaders of positive family mealtime communication and provides them with tips and conversation starter ideas.
Explain to young people that they can be important leaders in their families. Young people can encourage their family to sit down to eat together and have important or fun conversations. The rest of this activity is one way to do that.
Reflection – Ask young people the following questions:
This activity turns the tables, so to speak, when it comes to family mealtimes. It puts young people in the driver’s seat. Adults are not always used to thinking of young people as leaders in their families, but giving them small roles like this can help them strengthen connections with their families as well as build important social and emotional skills that will help them in other areas of their lives.
Emerging research shows many powerful benefits of approaching life with an attitude of gratitude. The benefits of being grateful can include mental wellness, school success, generosity, and even physical health. An attitude of gratitude isn’t something that people are born with or not; very young children can begin to learn skills and practices that will help them move through life with an appreciative mindset, even when dealing with challenges. This lesson focuses on teaching young children about the concept of gratitude and some ways they can start to incorporate gratitude practices into their lives.
Gratefuls and Grumbles Circle
Gather young people in circle. Explain that you are going to spend a little time thinking about gratitude. Ask if any of them know that word and what it means. If they don’t, tell them that being grateful or feeling gratitude means being thankful. Ask what they think of when they hear the word thankful or thanks. Give them a few minutes to talk about what it means.
Share with the young people that every day you personally have things in your life that make you feel gratitude, or thankful. Give an example from today.
Then explain that every day you also have things that happen that feel hard, that make you grumble. Ask if they know the word grumble. Talk for a few minutes about some examples of grumbles, ranging from small irritations to bigger worries or troubles. Give a few examples.
Then explain the activity: Each person in the circle is going to have a chance to share with the group one GRATEFUL and one GRUMBLE. You can say something like, “When it’s your turn, say your name. Then say, ‘One thing I am grateful for today is _________, and one thing that makes me grumble today is, ___________.” Give your own example using your name and a grateful and a grumble you shared earlier.
Begin the activity. Younger children may have a hard time with this. Be patient and coach them through it. Remember that you are teaching them a process. It’s okay if they stumble.
At the end, thank everyone for participating. Explain that even when we can’t make the grumbles go away, thinking about things we’re grateful for can help us feel better.
Once everyone has shared, transition into a breathing exercise that focuses on gratitude. You can explain it like this:
“Choose a way to sit that’s comfortable for you. You can be on chair, cross-legged, or on your heels. Place your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in for four counts. Then breathe out through your nose for four counts. Keep your lips closed and just let the air move through your nose. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and belly.”
You can use a Hoberman sphere to demonstrate to the young people what their chests and bellies will be doing when they breathe in and out.
Once they have the idea of how to do the breathing, ask them to think of some of the things they said they are grateful for during each inhale and exhale. They may even get a few more ideas as they go through the process.
Continue this deep belly gratitude breathing for a few minutes. Let them know it’s okay to close their eyes if they want to.
Pay It Forward:
Draw young people’s attention back to you. Ask if anyone thought during their breathing of a person for whom they are grateful. Explain that it’s important to let other people know when we’re grateful for them or for things they do. It makes them feel good, it makes us feel good, and it makes the world a better place when people show appreciation for one another. Pick one person in your school, organization or community who you want to show gratitude for as a group. You can pre-select this person, or use a group process. On the flip chart or butcher paper, write, “Thank you, _______________, for ___________________. We are grateful for you! Or choose a message of your own. Then invite each young person to use the paints to leave a handprint on the paper. Once the paint is dry you can deliver the “Gratitude card” to the recipient.
Like physical fitness, gratitude is something that has to be built and maintained. Fortunately, also like fitness, it’s something everyone can work on, no matter where they are starting. Different practices work more or less for different people. The activities in this lesson are just a few examples. The parent newsletter has additional ideas. Consider making gratitude practice a regular part of your classroom or group and see what happens!