Optimism, Resilience, Compassion and Our Kids with Carrie Patterson

Optimism, Resilience, Compassion and Our Kids with Carrie Patterson

by Chris Tompkins | December 13, 2022

Carrie Patterson recently became Managing Director of MindUP, an organization founded by Goldie Hawn after the September 11th attacks in 2001, to give young people the tools to help manage stress, regulate their emotions, and face the challenges of the 21st century with optimism, resilience, and compassion. Her new role builds on years of experience working across numerous youth development organizations including the Tim Hortons Foundation Camps where she worked to send over 18,000 kids to camp every year. Carrie’s extensive career in youth-focused non-profits along with her strong business sense, earned her the honour of being named one of the “Top 50 Women Leaders of Toronto for 2022” by Women We Admire.

The unique challenges faced by kids in the 21st century

Just as when Goldie Hawn founded MindUP 20 years ago during the aftermath of 9/11, young people are dealing with increased stress and anxiety owing to the pandemic, which has culminated in what Carrie calls, “a global mental health crisis.” This, along with unhealthy expectations forced on kids by social media, as well as the regular stresses of work, school and sports, makes an organization like MindUP vital. MindUP helps kids develop their mental fitness so that they can navigate these challenges and change the trajectory of their life.

Building mental fitness

MindUP is based firmly in neuroscience and Carrie says it’s the most important pillar of the program.

“How do you teach kids to control their emotions without teaching them about the engine that controls everything,” she questions.

Kids learn about brain function and the parts of the brain — the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus — right away, which helps illustrate the importance of “brain breaks”, a core practice of the MindUP curriculum. MindUP teaches kids to treat their brain like a muscle that becomes stronger: the more they practice an activity — and the minutes-long mindful breathing exercises (a.k.a. brain breaks) — the more they strengthen neural pathways, building mental fitness over time.

The four pillars of MindUP

The MindUp curriculum is based on four pillars:

Positive psychology – Carrie talks about overcoming our in-built negativity bias by focussing on positivity and gratitude, giving the example of a rained-out camp day. Most people would jump to the negative aspect of rain all day but the MindUP spin would be to focus on what we can do when it rains. Carrie explains that practicing positivity and gratitude helps rewire our brains to overcome our inherent negativity bias, helping us to gain perspective and a positive outlook on life.

Mindful awareness – This is where brain breaks come in. Brain breaks are mindful moments that engage the senses — from mindful listening to mindful movement — which help strengthen neural pathways so that kids (and adults!) can better regulate their emotions.

Neuroscience – The most important pillar because it allows kids to understand why they are feeling a certain way and is the underpinning for the other pillars.

Social emotional learning – Carrie quotes MindUP’s lead scientific advisor, Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl, as saying that social emotional learning “isn’t one more thing on your plate. It is the plate.” In the MindUP curriculum, emotional intelligence is framed as acts of kindness and gratitude because when you practice kindness, happiness and gratitude, it really impacts your well-being.

For more on what Carrie has to say about helping our kids build their mental fitness, listen to the full Shaping Our World episode at the top of this post.

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.

Transcript

[00:00:12.250] – Speaker 1
Well. Hey, I’m Chris Tompkins, and welcome to the Shaping Our World podcast. My goal is to invite you into a conversation that will leave you more confident in understanding and inspiring the young people in your life. Each episode, we talk with leading experts and offer relevant resources to dive deeper into the world of our youth today. Today we have Carrie Patterson on the show. Carrie Patterson serves as the managing director of Mind Up. The Goldie Hawn Foundation. MindUP The Goldie Hawn Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded to help children develop the knowledge and tools they need to manage stress, regulate emotions, and face the challenges of the 21st century with optimism, resilience, and compassion. Carrie leads the organization alongside the founder and CEO in areas of strategic planning, digital transformation, online training, fundraising partnerships, and the operations of the organization. Carrie has a long and extensive career specializing in nonprofit and youth development organizations, including the Director of Operations at the Tim Hortons Children Foundation, where she worked to provide over 18,000 kids each year with a positive and long-lasting camp experience. Carrie has brought her proven leadership, a strong track record of advocacy for children and youth around the world, and strong business sense to her new role at MindUP.

[00:01:34.840] – Speaker 1
Carrie’s diverse experience with youth also includes serving on the board of directors for several not-for-profit organizations. Carrie is currently completing her MBA and was named one of Toronto’s Top 50 Women Leaders of 2022.

[00:01:57.110] – Speaker 2
Carrie, welcome.

[00:01:58.220] – Speaker 3
Hi.

[00:01:58.870] – Speaker 2
It’s been great getting to know you a little bit as we’ve been doing a little work together, and I’m really excited for our conversation. I know you’re going to offer a lot to the people who care about young people and are listening, so let’s get to know you a little bit better. What shaped your world when you were a teen or a child? Something as you were growing up? What are some markers or influences in your life?

[00:02:23.100] – Speaker 3
Well, and this is not just because I’m talking to a Muskoka Woods audience, but I would have to say camp. So my first camp experience was when I was eight years old, and I was lucky enough to get to go to camp all through my teenage life and then my early 20s, as well as a camp director. So camp was absolutely everything to me. It’s where I still have some of my strongest relationships. It’s where the sense of community that I so strongly believe in now exists. And then the other thing I would have to say is swimming. I was a competitive swimmer since I was six, and what camp and swimming kind of had together is relationships, community, and teaching you independence and resilience at all ages of life.

[00:03:04.640] – Speaker 2
That’s awesome.

[00:03:05.280] – Speaker 3
Camp and swimming.

[00:03:06.510] – Speaker 2
At camp, there’s lots of swimming. So it makes sense that those two things. Carrie, together. So what’s shaping our world today? Tell us, what are you interested in? You’re still swimming? What’s going on in your life?

[00:03:17.410] – Speaker 3
Yeah, I do still swim. I swim Masters three times a week. I run marathons, I do triathlons. So, needless to say, staying active, because that is my way of staying mentally healthy as well, but also the work I get to do every day, which I know we’re going to be talking about here shortly. And lastly is being a mum. I have a 17 month year old that gets me up every single day with a huge smile on my face, and I get to live her life for the next 18 plus years. And it’s going to be so exciting. The first day, I get to bring her to Muskoka Woods.

[00:03:52.100] – Speaker 2
Chris yeah. Oh, yeah, we’ve already talked about that. That’d be awesome. So tell us a little bit about the work that you’re doing. What are you doing now that shapes the world of young people, teenagers, children? Talk about what you actually do.

[00:04:06.190] – Speaker 3
Yeah. So I am very fortunate that I work for an organization called Mind Up. It was founded by Goldie Hawn. Yes. The actress, and she started it 20 years ago. And really the reason why it was started 20 years ago was she was seeing the increase in kids stress, the increase in anxiety, the increase in kids not sleeping at Nut through the night anymore, and unfortunately, the increase in suicide. And here we are 20 years later coming out of a pandemic or in the middle of a pandemic, and we’re seeing these same things. So the work that we do every day is we train educators, we train parents, we train caregivers, we give them the tools to help them with their children. And so when I say tools, what do you mean by that? We would train educators in over 48 countries, actually, right now, around what skills and tools do these kids need at an early age? And when I say early, I’m saying we start as early as age three years old, and we go all the way up into I mean, we do call ourselves Mind Up for Life for a reason.

[00:05:08.660] – Speaker 3
The skills you learn at three are just as important at age 615, 30, 99. So these are all skills and we’ll dive in a bit deeper, I think, into what these skills really are. But, yeah, so we’re now in 48 countries. We have a beautiful online platform that invites parents and nurses and educators and school administrators and all sorts of people onto our platform to learn all about Mind Up for Life.

[00:05:34.920] – Speaker 2
It’s amazing. And I’m excited to dive into it a little bit to help parents, because I think a lot of the like you said, Goldie, what she saw and what you and I have talked about and a lot of the parents and educators and youth workers that are listening to this would agree, is that there are some challenges young people are facing today. We’ve faced for a long time, but in this day and age, they’re unique. And so the mission of Mind Up, it says, to help children face the challenges of the 21st century with optimism, resilience, and compassion. And what an incredible mission. But to kind of get there, what are you recognizing and seeing are some of the biggest challenges that kids today are having to navigate?

[00:06:20.980] – Speaker 3
Well, we’re living, like I said, the pandemic. And so this has really increased mental health. I mean, I don’t even want to read the stats because they’re horrifying to think about, but mental health challenges are now more prominent than they aren’t. And it’s not just an issue here in Canada. It’s an issue worldwide. We’re in a global mental health crisis. So pandemic is one thing. And how we come out of that strong and regain and refocus with our children the power of relationships and social connections and building resilience and not be scared of the things that the Pandemic brought on for our children of all ages, that would be one thing. And then we have to talk about it technology, and we know it’s not going anywhere. So how do we embrace it in a way that’s for good, in a way that is healthy for our children, rather than it can’t be all negative? So how do we change the mindset to make technology a tool for good? But we do know the pressures that technology and social media, when I say technology like social media, bring on our children around wanting to look good, have the best life, comparison yourself to others.

[00:07:33.520] – Speaker 3
And so it’s a really challenging world that our kids are living in today. And then lastly, just the pressures of work, school, sport, home life. Every child or every person has their own story in life. And so what can we do? No matter what your story is, like you said, how do we bring on optimism, resilience and compassion? And when we do know what MindUP all the pressures in the world, we can give these tools and skills for our children to navigate this challenging world and thrive and change the trajectory of their lives, which is quite amazing that we know we can do that.

[00:08:10.770] – Speaker 2
Yeah. So when you talk about tools and resources, Mike, how do you bridge the gap as parents and others? How can we step into the gap between these challenges that you articulate? And I think it’s great, and even I love that you’re starting so young because we often think of technology as just like a teen issue. But more and more and more, because of some of the pressures and the way the world works, younger people are engaging with technology. So what have you discovered through your work that we can do to kind of bridge the gap between these challenges they face to creating optimistic, resilient, compassionate, thriving young people and then right into adulthood?

[00:08:50.970] – Speaker 3
Yeah. So let’s table the technology first side because that’s not going anywhere. So what we need to focus on is what preventative measures can we take? Right? So what can we do and make it a daily habit like embed it into our DNA per se at a kid at age three or age 14 or whatever the case might be. And so let’s pause that and let’s just focus on the preventative piece and mind up. And I didn’t give this in the explanation, but really we do focus on four pillars. One is neuroscience, understanding your brain. And I’m going to get to that in just a second. The second one is mindful awareness. And we do that through practices. And so that is mindful listening, mindful smelling, mindful tasting, mindful movement, positive psychology, looking at happiness and optimism. And lastly, social emotional learning skills, gratitude, kindness, giving back, all of those sort of things. And so we need to build a toolbox for our children. And what I want to pause and say to all the parents and caregivers and if educators are listening to this right now, is that we truly can all make a difference because our children’s brains are still developing.

[00:10:05.500] – Speaker 3
They’re developing all the way up until age 25. So if you think, oh, my kid’s not three years old, five years old anymore and they’re 16, what can I do? There is a lot we can do. And we need to pause and actually think about this and make the different change, I guess you would say now and then. I’m going to get into the tools in just a second. But the last thing is that I really want to emphasize is in. Dr. Jean Clinton out of McMaster University says this is your brain is always developing and relationships and environment are the nutrient to the brain.

[00:10:40.070] – Speaker 2
Wow.

[00:10:40.520] – Speaker 3
Relationships and environment are the nutrient to our brain. So put aside like, oh my gosh, I have to do a gratitude journal every day with your kids. Take away the hard stuff, right. Or the things that you think might be hard. Just think about every day what positive environments are we placing our children in? Right. And that could be camp. That’s why I think camp is the most influential thing in my entire life.

[00:11:01.620] – Speaker 2
Right.

[00:11:02.210] – Speaker 3
And what relationships are you surrounding them? Is that your sports coach? Is that the people at camp? Is that their teammates? Is that they’re taking an active role in going to school? Who’s their teacher? Does the teacher get to know them? All of these things are so important because I truly believe that those are things we can do every day and think about as our children are growing.

[00:11:24.080] – Speaker 2
That’s amazing. And just to even add to that, as parents, we still research will say are the most significant relationship in our kids lives. And we create an environment where they spend a good chunk of their time growing up in our home. And so many of these things I think it’s great how you’re talking about the relationships our kids have and the environment they grow up in. But for the parents listening, there’s an incredible opportunity for us, even when we feel like we’re in over our heads, to really pause and to think and to be able to put some things into practice that continue. I love that idea of the brain developing and the nutrients are the relationships and the environment. That’s such a helpful way to think about what the little things we do day to day start to add up and what the result is. One of the things I love about what you guys do at MindUP is you’re very research based and scientific, and you do the hard work of getting in to figure out what’s going on and what are the best ways to approach some of the things. So I’d love to just take those four pillars one at a time, if that’s good with you.

[00:12:33.650] – Speaker 2
Neuroscience is a big part of the curriculum. What do you know about the science behind where kids are at the mental health challenges? I know Mike a brain break. Explain some of this to us around the neuroscience part of it.

[00:12:51.080] – Speaker 3
Yeah. So neuroscience is one of the pillars of Mind Up, but it is the most important pillar. And so we start with neuroscience. But everything we do, every lesson we do, everything always connects back to the brain. And understanding your brain think about it. How do we ask kids to control their emotions if they don’t understand how their actual engine works inside their head? Right? Think about it that way. So we need to teach them the components of the brain. And so that’s where we start. We talk about the amygdala, we talk about the prefrontal cortex, and we talk about the hippocampus. And we really focus on these three areas at the very start of the Mind Up program and how the brain functions. And it’s amazing, actually, when you see the kids have these AHA moments, like, oh, my gosh, my amygdala. I just flipped my lid because my amygdala was going off, and I couldn’t access my prefrontal cortex to calm down, which I say that, but it’s so important that kids are thinking this way, or we have kids go home and say to their parents, I think you need a brain break right now.

[00:13:49.690] – Speaker 3
And so, within neuroscience, it’s really like teaching our students that our brain is like a muscle. The more you practice activities, the stronger it becomes. And I think when you think about that, it is our signature practice, the brain break. And that strengthens your neural pathways in such a positive way. And what we know from the research by taking a brain break and a brain break is a simple mindful breathing activity that our children in our program practice three times a day. Some will do it more, but it really is helping to train attention, which facilitates emotional balance and awareness. And this is what we know from the research. By practicing a brain break three times a day, we’re seeing increased and better focus. We’re seeing our children manage emotions, we see better problem solving skills, better at building relationships and being more optimistic and grateful. So we start there and we encourage to take a brain break before if it’s at the beginning of a day and your child’s going into school and you know, they have a test, a brain break right before a test is so important. And you hear us say brain break and not use the word mindfulness or meditation because this is like two minutes, three minutes.

[00:15:05.240] – Speaker 3
We do not need to scare our parents, caregivers, whoever is our children, to say we’re going to do a ten minute, 20 minutes exercise and then we’re all going to feel better. These are quick. Just take a moment, practice that mindful breathing so that you can focus and get on your day in a healthier way.

[00:15:21.430] – Speaker 2
So does this kind of bridge from the neuroscience to mindful awareness? Talk to us a little bit about that, maybe a bit more in depth on what mindful awareness is as a pillar for your work.

[00:15:33.770] – Speaker 3
Yeah, so I mentioned it earlier. We really look at mindful awareness through our senses and we look at activities. And I keep going back to camp, but camp is like the perfect place to be practicing mindful awareness. You have this beautiful environment, you have water, you have woods, you have nature. Oh my gosh. The amount of mindful listening and mindful through our senses that we can do at camp is just incredible. But really, it is different activities that are focusing, that calm pause. And let’s take a moment to really focus on our listening skills. So you could be sitting as a cabin group outside or as a group of children outside, and really you could just spend the next three minutes no one talking and just listening. And then you debrief. And it is so powerful when you do debrief and you reflect on that mindful listening, but also just taking that moment to slow down in the day and focus your attention really does support our children’s growth and neural pathways as well. Or you could do mindful movement outside, right? Mindful movement can be any sort of activity, but you’re doing it outside in nature where we know we’re getting dopamine hits and that we’re taking the moment to just do these little activities throughout the day that really just pause.

[00:16:49.930] – Speaker 3
So we say brain break, but these are like mindful breaks with a spin because we’re doing it through our senses.

[00:16:55.190] – Speaker 2
I love that. So let’s take the work you guys do. Your organization does a lot in schools and classrooms, but brain breaks are mindful awareness using our senses. There’s something about weaving them into significant parts in our day and routine transitions and starts and ends, can you kind of take the idea, and as a parent, listening, how might this work in our home with kids? When would we do something like this? And what would a brain break kind of look like with our kids in our houses? Yeah.

[00:17:31.700] – Speaker 3
So what I would do is, you know, your child, you know yourself. You don’t need to be doing a brain break with your child. Sometimes you just need to do it yourself. What are those things that spike your stress level up or spike adrenaline increases or whatever that is for you being late to work, is that going to, you know, stress you completely out, that you’re going to start your day at work in a bad mindset? So for what I would coach the parent is you actually have to practice it if you expect your children to practice it. So what are those triggers throughout the day that, you know, you just need to calm? Is it before a presentation? And you know what? It could be easily before a presentation. Just close your eyes, take three breaths. I guarantee you, when you go to present, you’re going to already be in a better space. And now for our children, it depends, but a lot of children test day, they’re going in, and they have a math test, science test. I would get that brain break in as soon as they wake up. So the first thing that they’re doing when their Amygdala is already triggered is, let’s calm that down.

[00:18:32.290] – Speaker 3
So they’re going into school in a place of focus, in a place of better attention, and just in a more calm and clear with focus going into the school day. If they’re on a sports team and it’s a big sports competition, up is at the time that they would take a brain break. Or siblings, right? Like, siblings fight. We know that. And that’s okay. But how do we get going? Again, I keep saying, like, activating that Amygdala, we need that to calm down. Letting the prefrontal cortex, which is your executive functioning, take control so you can actually make sound decision making. So when you’re fighting, you’re not fighting in a place of high stress. You’re actually now able to calm down and talk about it as a sibling. So finding those moments as a family that it might be different for everybody, or you could do a collective one, but really, again, there’s amazing apps out there as a parent. Mike Headspace is a great one that you can use, but you don’t even need that either. You could just do it on your own, because sometimes it’s as simple as just taking two minutes for yourself, closing your eyes, and taking deep breaths.

[00:19:43.950] – Speaker 2
Wells and I know for any of us that have Apple Watches, there’s, like, a breathing app that when I got Mike, I was like, what is this thing doing? It’s Mike beeping and take a breath. And you do it and it helps you practice. So, yeah, there’s a lot of tools out there that are beyond set curriculums to be able to do this. I love listening to you talk about this. A couple of thoughts are sometimes we think these things are just kind of nice and maybe they just calm us down. But what your organization has discovered even more in depth is the science behind this. Right. That this isn’t just a nice intention to do that. It actually works through our bodies and our brains to bring about the kind of emotion and thoughts and the way our hormones are all firing to actually calm us down or allow us to think clear. So that’s one piece that I love about what we’re talking about and the other is to you mentioned critical times in our rhythm and routine and lives to do this. But there is also, and I think you would agree to this, something to be said just about building rhythm and routine, even if it’s not potentially a crisis or something.

[00:21:01.760] – Speaker 2
Mike we just start getting to we train our bodies and our minds before we go out the door, even if it’s not stressful. Let’s just stop and do this and we start to build really healthy rhythms into our lives. Like you said, most of the stuff you do is preventative. Right. It’s not after a major crisis happens. These are all good things, but these are things to actually build some homeostasis and peace to the regular ebbs and flows of life. Yeah.

[00:21:34.020] – Speaker 3
And we use the word mental fitness. We know that when we exercise every day you get stronger. Right. Same thing. You exercise that brain, treat it like a muscle. Every day you’re going to get stronger, being annoying when to activate it. But also you’re going to improve these things that I was talking to you about earlier around focus and self regulation and self management. So if you think about it as your brain is like a muscle and we need to practice that and train it every single day, I think it’s a good way to think about it.

[00:22:02.710] – Speaker 2
Yeah. Your third pillar then, kind of in positive psychology, correct me if I’m wrong, that has a bit more to do with strengths and community and is that the environment? And talk to me a little bit about positive psychology and how that kind of weaves into the well being of young people.

[00:22:26.350] – Speaker 1
Yeah.

[00:22:26.820] – Speaker 3
So we really have taken, again back to the research. The science of happiness is really what stems from this positive psychology and Sean Acker’s work, if you know him, he has a beautiful book on the happiness advantage. But really what we do is really focus on that happiness and optimism and perspective taking, right. So an example could be a camp day and it’s raining and the kids get up and say, this is terrible, this sucks. I cannot do my activities today, and already you’re spending the day in a bad frame of mind. Right. That’s the negativity bias that we all have. We’re more likely to go to the negative aspect versus the positive. So if we treat our kids to retrain your brain and say, oh, man, it’s raining, but what do we get to do at camp when it rains? And you just change the spin on, how do you take what you might perceive as a negative scenario and look at the positive. Right. And at the end of the day, when you debrief it, you’re looking at it as a debrief from a positive lens when you were not happy. How did you spin that around?

[00:23:38.010] – Speaker 3
A lot of it is in which camp is the perfect environment for it and classrooms as well. It’s all in the reflection and debrief for our children. But remembering that, how do you take what is embedded in who we are, the negativity bias, and spin that for our children and for us to look at things in a more positive light. And that’s just one example, but I think that’s a really good one when you put in the context that everyone here that’s listening can think of the time that they went right to the negativity of that situation and never once thought about what was positive.

[00:24:12.040] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I really like that. And knowing just how important the disposition of gratitude is amidst all of that, too, which is woven into what you’re talking about there. I think that’s such an important thing. And what you’re talking about is a skill right. That you can develop over time, that the more you practice this, the more it comes to you more naturally when difficult things happen or things get turned upside down. When you learn and we teach kids at an early age how to do that, then as life goes on, they’ve got that muscle memory, so to speak, and neuroplasticity, right? Yeah.

[00:24:53.210] – Speaker 3
We can change. And I said it like our brains are evolving and developing, and so we need to practice it as a skill as often as possible so that we are changing and rewiring our brain.

[00:25:06.110] – Speaker 2
Yeah, that’s really good. So tell us a little bit about social emotional learning that comes down to more kind of knowledge, skills, attributes, at least I think. So tell us a little bit more about where that kind of fits in here.

[00:25:22.220] – Speaker 1
Yeah.

[00:25:22.620] – Speaker 3
So social emotional learning, even though we have these four pillars where they all kind of cross each other, because what I would say social emotional learning is everything, right? And it’s so important to think of that way. And Dr. Kimberly shown at Rico, who’s our lead principal scientific advisor when she does keynotes in front of educators, she’ll often say that don’t think of social emotional learning is one more thing on the plate. It is the plate.

[00:25:50.100] – Speaker 2
Right.

[00:25:50.690] – Speaker 3
It is essential to healthy relationships, responsible decision making, and how we can really shape the future of our children. And as adults, think of social emotional learning as emotional intelligence, right? Just a different way of framing it at the adult level. But in our curriculum, we really focus on acts of kindness and gratitude. Service learning is embedded in that. How are you giving back to our community? And we know that all of these impact our wellbeing, when you create it as a habit or make it, we always say make kindness, gratitude, happiness, optimism part of your DNA, and how you do that, you practice it. So in the classroom, they have gratitude journals, they have gratitude circles. I know at camp you do gratitude at the end of the evening, or how do you do it around meal time at home, for instance, dinner table or before bed? What’s one kind thing you did for someone else today? Or what’s one kind thing someone else did for you? And then the second question is, what are you grateful for today? If you just did that every day at some point in your day? Because you might be a parent that has night shift or work in the evening, so maybe nighttime is not right.

[00:27:02.890] – Speaker 3
It’s hard to get all the siblings together around a meal time. But there is a time during the day that you could practice this one on one or as an entire family at camp, as a cabin group, one on one with camp counselors or staff, leadership and then educators as part of the classroom climate. It’s super important. We see gratitude walls in classroom. So every day they pick a new word or do something new that they put, their gratitude comes down. What’s the next day? Or we see Acts of Kindness month. And every day you’re picking a new as a classroom act of kindness. And there’s so many ways that you don’t need to be in any sort of setting. You don’t need any money or tool to do this. It’s just a daily practice.

[00:27:43.070] – Speaker 2
Yeah. So maybe the answer is really obvious, but why does this help kids? What’s the end result of the curriculum? Is it shaping our brains? How is it making us better people?

[00:27:57.270] – Speaker 3
It’s such a good question because 20 years ago, when Goldie Hahn was starting this foundation, people really looked at her and were like, what do you mean you’re going to take brain breaks? What do you mean you’re going to teach about kindness and compassion and empathy?

[00:28:12.340] – Speaker 2
What does that really matter?

[00:28:15.070] – Speaker 3
Are you crazy? You can’t teach these things right now. There’s decades of research that shows that you can teach these things and that we’re reshaping our children’s. Yes, brain. But really what’s that leading to is increased pro social skills, right. When MindUP is in a school, what we see is decrease in bullying on the playground. And we’re not even a bullying prevention program. But what you’re doing is you’re teaching right. These skills that you just. Naturally see it or increase, like academics, because kids are getting along and feeling safer in their classroom because there’s a sense of belonging in community. So there’s so many benefits from the research. And I know that you keep going into the research, but again, back 20 years ago, we actually didn’t even take our program out to schools until we did the research. And since then, 20 years later, we’ve done nine research studies, four different countries, uganda, Portugal, a lot in Canada, in the US. And these are the outcomes that we’re seeing. And it’s increased compassion, increased responsible decision making, stronger relationships with their peers. And so it does matter. You could read a book on the science of gratitude, but put that all aside.

[00:29:34.090] – Speaker 3
We know it, we see it, and we’ve seen 20 years of our research demonstrating this in our children.

[00:29:40.080] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I was just thinking, as you’re saying that growing up, I think maybe we thought, mike, some kids are kind and some aren’t. Right? That’s just the way it is. But I love this idea now of being like, no, all kids, we can help all kids be more kind, and some kids are just more naturally gracious to other people. And you’re like, no. And compassion. Right. Same thing. I’m just thinking back to going Mike through my grade four class. I’d be like, yeah, some of the kids are compassionate, some art, and to think that we can actually learn that and again, not only the individual benefit, but the collective benefit of a community and an environment that is moving and stepping deeper into some of these things that we’ve been talking about, I think is pretty inspiring. So very briefly, Terry, help me. So you have a curriculum for schools. I know that we’ve talked a bit about that, particularly around social emotional learning. That is the plate itself. What are some things from the curriculum beyond we talked about practicing gratitude or brain breaks or other things like that. Is there anything else that you think from Mike, a curriculum that could be kind of transported for parents?

[00:30:53.910] – Speaker 2
And I know you have stuff for parents. What are a few things that we haven’t talked about that might be helpful for parents in the social emotional learning sphere?

[00:31:02.990] – Speaker 1
Yeah.

[00:31:03.400] – Speaker 3
What I would say is when we do this with teachers, the same as alike with parents and caregivers and anybody really is before you even uncover the curriculum and administer it in class just because you’re not a teacher that does lessons. Because us as parents, that would be mike crazy if we sat our kids down every day and say, here’s a 30 minutes lesson. So let’s start about taking care of ourselves and understanding ourselves because that will have a massive ripple effect to your children. So even if you didn’t do any of the curriculum, but you changed your own behavior because now you know more. And so as a parent, what I would say. And these are like the kind of the mind up three principles is like understand your brain to understand yourself. How do you expect our children to understand their brain and self regulation and management skills if we can, and so really take that opportunity to understand your brain. Number two is as a parent practice brain breaks daily. And just because Mindset uses the word brain breaks and you might already use Headspace or Insight Time or some of these apps, but make that part of your daily routine because you’re going to find yourself calmer and yourself improving your own neural pathways so that you can be in a better adult but also model it for our children.

[00:32:26.960] – Speaker 3
And the last one is what are you doing in your daily life that’s making happiness, gratitude and kindness part of who you are as a person, like part of your DNA. Start there, start about yourself. Because I guarantee you, when you take care of yourself and do those things, all of a sudden you’re going to see an impact within your children without even saying, today we’re going to do the Gratitude Circle, and tomorrow we’re going to do the Kindness Talk and et cetera, et cetera. Just take that away as a parent, because it’s too much. We got to dumb it down for ourselves, but really understand our own science of well being and mindful of ourselves first.

[00:33:05.690] – Speaker 2
Yeah. And there are some simple and practical things as parents we can practice and build into our weeks and months of life that we can invite our kids along. I think of like knowing neighbors that are going through tough times and making a meal together and dropping it off and things like that that, again, are not only good to care for and bless other people around us, but also for our own well being at the end of the day.

[00:33:38.170] – Speaker 1
Yeah.

[00:33:38.470] – Speaker 3
There’s new research on who do you surround yourself with, who are those top seven friends and are they really impacting your well being because they matter, right? And so even for yourself, but for your children, too, who are their friends, what is their social network? And then ensuring that community is part of it for yourself and your children is huge. And that’s what I would say camp is the best thought for community and the perfect environment for social emotional learning.

[00:34:08.750] – Speaker 2
Yeah. And I think and it’s probably obvious as we’ve gone through this conversation, but we started kind of talking about some of the challenges young people face. We talked a little bit about the things we can do to come alongside them. And again, it might have been obvious and we’ve said it, but I just think it’s worth kind of bookmarking this kind of near the end to say, mike, we start to practice these things with our kids. What’s the end result of that? What’s changing? You talk about optimism and resilience and put some flesh to that as school goes through the curriculum, how’s a student walk out different at the end of it? When we practice these things, yeah, we’re.

[00:34:54.520] – Speaker 3
More able to self regulate and self manage. Right. And that is really, really important. So you’re giving the skills to be a better student, to be a better player on the sports field. And so what we see, we really do, we see increased academics because the children are understanding how to better focus their time. So when you’re leaving, I truly think you go back to your mission. You are walking out of or going into university or coming out of university, practicing all of this as a kinder, more focused ability to self regulate and selfmanage individual. And that really is what the world needs. You think of the workplace like emotional intelligence is everything. People with emotional intelligence seem to be getting the jobs over the person that just graduated with the highest GPA. So we really hopefully are setting up our children for a very successful life that hopefully is different than what we’re seeing right now. Hopefully we see decrease in stress and anxiety because we are putting such an emphasis on these skills at an early age.

[00:36:04.730] – Speaker 2
That’s amazing. Just a brief question before we kind of wrap up beyond and for those listening, it’s Mindup.org, where you can get a whole bunch of information about what we’ve been talking about today. And you mentioned a book by Sean Acre.

[00:36:23.370] – Speaker 3
Yes.

[00:36:23.770] – Speaker 2
Shawn acre unhappiness. If parents are like, this is a fascinating topic, where would you point them to get more information beyond your website and other places? Are there any other resources or things that you’ve come across that would be really helpful for parents who are like, man, I’d love to know more about all this stuff.

[00:36:42.880] – Speaker 3
Yeah, well, I have to talk because I did say Sean Acres book. There’s two other books that I really do, Mike, but as a new mum myself, I guess not new. She’s 17 months now, but ten mindful minutes by Goldie hawn. Beautiful read. Easy. So all of these activities that I’ve spoken about today, she does it in these bite size moments from a parent’s lens. It’s absolutely beautiful. And these activities that she herself were doing with her children. So it’s a beautiful book. It also connects to the science as wells. So I’d have to obviously have ten mindful minutes as a recommendation. And I mentioned Dr. Jean Clinton earlier. She also has a beautiful book called Love Builds Brains. Love Builds Brains, like that the title alone, hopefully that sells it to you.

[00:37:29.950] – Speaker 2
Yeah. Oh my goodness.

[00:37:31.350] – Speaker 3
And then I mentioned Headspace and apps like that. But the Mind up when you go to Mindup.org over the pandemic or two years, we really developed an online digital platform and we’ve expanded to parents and Caregivers beyond just education. And we’re finding one of our biggest memberships now are Parents and Caregivers Not just of parents that have kids in the Mind Up program, but parents and caregivers from everywhere in all walks of life. And on that we have a few really short courses for parents. One is actually called Mindful Parenting that Goldie Hawn wrote herself and that she narrates on, so it’s her voice as you take the course. We also have Dr. Jean Clinton with a mini course on Love Builds brains. And then we also have different video series by experts who are working on a sleep one right now. And what I’ll say about all this content that we do deliver, everything always connects back to the science and everything always connects back to the brain. And that is crucial to who we are as an organization. Brain science is everything to us. That’s how we build our mental fitness of our children and ourselves.

[00:38:41.260] – Speaker 3
And so everything I’m talking about always gives you more information. So you do understand the science behind what we’re teaching you.

[00:38:48.410] – Speaker 2
In my work, I have spent seems like more time than normal, talking with parents who are in the midst of really working through some difficult mental health challenges with their kids. And so as we’re wrapping up, Carrie, I wonder if you could just share any final thoughts or words of encouragement for parents who are in the thick of it right now, listening to this going, I just need some hope and something that I can grab hold of to help me navigate where I’m at today.

[00:39:20.980] – Speaker 3
Well, first thing I would say is you’re not alone. Life is hard, and hope is something that I think I have. Hope that we are changing. I’ve seen it in the education system. Districts and educators are making social emotional learning a priority. So we need to too. But just know that you’re not alone. And put aside these books that I said to read or getting on the Mind Up platform. Just take time for yourself. Learn your own self regulation, which are those three things I talked about, understanding your brain, taking brain breaks, and making kindness and gratitude part of your own. Because you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your children. And then do the little things. Practice. Start small. Like do you spend enough time outside with your child, even if that’s a quick walk. But are we inside all day or are we spending time outside? What is intentional time with your kids without technology? So many times you say, oh, I just spent the last hour with my kid, but your cell phone is right there and you’re grabbing it every time you hear a text come through or an email.

[00:40:27.500] – Speaker 3
So how do you really have that presence with your children? That is going to be extremely important. And can you, as a family, figure out a way to practice gratitude moments and acts of kindness? The holidays are approaching right now, so this is the perfect time to think about gratitude and Acts of kindness. But what I Will say, and Goldie started this foundation 20 years ago with the hope that We Do have optimistic futures ahead of us. So let’s all figure out a way to make this part of our Life, our DNA and the Way we live as humans, because we are all in It together. And We Do really need to focus on mental fitness as that’s the way the world will become a better Place. I truly believe that.

[00:41:13.620] – Speaker 2
Oh, man. Thank you for sharing that, Carrie. And yeah, just as an encouragement, we become new friends and just thank you for you’ve been in this type of work for years, and your consistency and commitment to helping young people thrive is pretty inspiring every time I’ve been with you. So thanks for doing what you do and thanks for Sharing these 35 or so minutes with us and our listeners. I know we’re all a little better off from this time, so thank you so much for being with us.

[00:41:45.460] – Speaker 3
Well, thank you, Chris. And, yes, I was a Camp Director for years, so I feel so blessed to be on this podcast with you. But even more so, I think you have the perfect job to really embed social, emotional learning and Bring breaks as part of what you do as an Individual, but what you can do at Camp. Because I do really feel that Camps is a great place to start all of this great work that we can all do together.

[00:42:09.770] – Speaker 2
Amazing.

[00:42:10.480] – Speaker 1
Thanks, Carrie.

[00:42:11.220] – Speaker 2
Have a great day and thanks again for the conversation.

[00:42:14.500] – Speaker 3
Thank you.

[00:42:22.670] – Speaker 1
Well, that’s a wrap for season two of Shaping Our World podcast.

[00:42:26.530] – Speaker 2
What a season we’ve had as we’ve.

[00:42:28.280] – Speaker 1
Unpacked some tools, helpful tips, resources, all given to us through incredible guests that have really helped our thinking around what it means to be a young person today and how, as caring adults, we can really come alongside them and help shape their world. What a great series of conversations we’ve had. We’re going to take a break for a few months and stay tuned for season three as we kick off that in the new year of 2023. We’re excited to come back. We’ve got some great guests. We’re going to circle back to a few guests that we’ve had in the past and have them on again. Just an opportunity for us to really dive into the world of young people today and help figure out what’s going on and what kind of role we can play as adults that care and want to invest in our young people today. It’s always great to hear from listeners as they’ve tracked with us. And thank you for listening all across the world and wherever you’re coming from as we help shape our world by investing in the youth. We’ll see you next season.

About the Author

Chris Tompkins leads the senior leadership team in bringing the Muskoka Woods vision to life. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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