5 Best Practices to Support Positive Mental Health for Kids and Teens

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By Dee Marie

These tips are not just for kids, but for adults too!

1.Eat Healthy

Kids who eat healthier have better Mental Health according to a 2 year study examining the diets of 3,000 adolescents between 11-18 years of age published in PLOS ONE journal. A Diet rich in organic fruits & vegetables, along with most food intake being prepared at home vs at a restaurant, is helpful for mental health and long-term wellbeing.


Look for fish oil supplements containing DHA & EPA.  These Omega-3s are vitally important for Children’s and Teen’s brains. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to reduce aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, and antisocial mannerisms according to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania. Magnesium comes in kid friendly forms such as powders and gummies. It helps promote relaxation, combating stress-related symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and all sleep issues. Herbal teas such as chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm are also safe and effective to calm the over-stimulated nervous system.

3.Decrease Screen Time

We all have to be on the screen, and it is not going away, but the pandemic has increased everyone’s time on the computer, TV, cell phone, and video games. Too much affects students’ mental health. 4-5 hours per day is plenty. Since 2018, 40,000 kids have been evaluated for mental wellness. Those students on the screen over 7 hours per day have been seen more frequently for mental and behavioral health issues by psychologists.

4.Exercise & Yoga: Indoors and Outdoors

There’s nothing like the great outdoors – breathing deeply and enjoying nature. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation. For the past five years, CALMING KIDS has interviewed their students regarding positive shifts in behavior and quality of life. The CK teens between the ages of 13-18 report that walks outside can help them come into balance and increase their mental health on a daily basis. Yoga stretching and deep breathing is their next choice for decreasing anxiety.

5.Feeling Our Emotions!

This is such a simple and important part of the mental health picture. Let kids and teens know it is OK to feel sad, frustrated, angry, silly, disappointed… A parent or teacher role model for this is very beneficial.

Now that our masks are off, a hug per day or a little extra attention paid to the next generation will go a long way in positive mental wellness.

Dee Marie on The Third Place Podcast

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Listen to a great interview with Mary Allard & David Gaines from The Third Place Podcast and Dee Marie from Calming Kids discussing how to help families come into balance using classical yoga strategies during the COVID-19 quarantine.  Available here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Conversations & Consciousness about Teenage Depression & Suicide

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A parent listens as her teen talks about his feelings.

Depression and suicide are not easy topics for me to talk about, but I’m hoping that sharing at least part of my family’s story can help those who are struggling.  Several years ago, my family experienced a series of traumatic events.  Those events left myself experiencing clinical anxiety that evolved into depression, and left one of my children facing clinical depression and multiple attempts at suicide.  Out of an abundance of respect for his privacy, I will not share the details of those events or the resulting impact.  (The photo above is also not of that teen.)  What I will share are some tips that are from a combination of what I’ve learned through seeking treatment and support for him and myself, as well as information from the Child Mind Institute.

An Ongoing Crisis

The problem of depression and suicide in youth is not a new phenomenon.  Suicide rates among youth aged 10-27 have increased dramatically since 2007, with some studies showing as much as a 60% increase.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2007 the suicide rate for this age group was 6.8 per 100,000.  By 2018 that number had increased to 10.7 per 100,000.  

Of course we all want to know why, but the truth is there isn’t much data to solidly confirm the causes.  Some people indicate an increase in social media use as the cause, but not all countries with an increase in social media use have seen suicide increases.  Currently, one factor that many experts see as a cause for concern is the pandemic.  While there have been no wide-spread studies on the effects of the pandemic on mental health in youth, there have been CDC surveys and anecdotal reports from doctors supporting the concern.  Add to the pandemic a list of other contributing factors such as racial and economic injustice and inequity, a struggling economy, and a healthcare system that often does not provide enough mental health support, and we have a perfect storm for the crisis we’re facing.  

What Can We Do?

With all this dire news, what can we do as adults to support each other and the youths in our lives?  The first thing we need to do is to be aware of signs of depression and warning signs of suicidal thoughts and ideations.  Warning signs for each, according to The Child Mind Institute, and tips on what to do can be found below.  

Signs of Depression

  • Unusual sadness or irritability, persisting even when circumstances change
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Reduced feelings of anticipation
  • Changes in weight
  • Shifts in sleep patterns
  • Sluggishness
  • Harsh self-assessment (“I’m ugly. I’m no good. I’ll never make friends.”)
  • Feelings of worthlessness/ hopelessness
  • Thoughts of or attempts at suicide

(Miller, 2021, para. 6)

What to Do:

  • Take note of these symptoms, their severity and frequency.
  • If symptoms are impacting quality of life, or if they continue for two weeks or more, seek help.
  • If the person is suicidal seek help immediately.


Signs a Teen or Young Adult May be Suicidal

  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Problems eating or sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Reckless behavior
  • Dropping grades
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Giving away belongings
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Talking about being a burden to others or not belonging
  • Talking about suicide or wanting to die
  • Writing or drawing about suicide, or acting it out in play

(Ehmke, 2021, para. 3)

What to Do:

  • Ask the person if they are thinking about suicide.  Some people avoid this because they fear it will make the person think more about attempting suicide.  Research shows this is not true.  I can attest to this.  Asking my son if he is thinking about suicide has literally saved his life more than once.
  • If a person is actively attempting suicide call 911 immediately.
  • If the person is experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideations call for support:
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255  
    • In Boulder County Colorado call 1-844-493-TALK or text TALK to 38255.                          This will get you in touch with Boulder County Mental Health Partner’s 24/7 Crisis Line.

Educate Yourself

The rate of suicide and depression among young people in the United States has hit a crisis level.  Educating yourself about how to recognize and seek help for both is a good place to start for changing that.  Of course, there are other steps we can take.  Be sure to see our next CALMING KIDS Blog and Newsletter for mainstream and mindful solutions that can help build resilience and help ease feelings of depression.  



Miller, C. (n.d.) Signs of Depression During the Pandemic. Child Mind Institute, Inc.  Retrieved February 23, 2021 from https://childmind.org/article/signs-of-depression-during-coronavirus-crisis/

Ehmke, R. (n.d.) Signs a Child Might Be Suicidal. Child Mind Institute, Inc.  Retrieved February 23, 2021 from https://childmind.org/article/signs-a-child-might-be-suicidal/

Dastagir, A. (2020, September 11) More young people are dying by suicide, and experts aren’t sure why. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/09/11/youth-suicide-rate-increases-cdc-report-finds/3463549001/

Dastagir, A. (2020, August 13). The pandemic is taking a toll on Americans’ mental health. A new CDC study shows who we need to worry about most. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/08/13/covid-19-takes-mental-toll-youth-minorities-essential-workers/3365719001/

Ayurveda & Yoga Podcast

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Join Dee Marie on The Third Place podcast as she discusses “The Principles of Yoga Therapy to Find Peace in the Family Unit”.  

Dee Marie (Founder of CALMING KIDS) will discuss Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga.  As a result, you’ll learn how understanding its principles can help increase compassion and balance in the family unit.  Hear how to decrease the negative effects of spending more time at home.  Use yoga and Ayurveda to reduce tension from spending time in front of the computer.  Get insight into peacefully addressing differences in opinions and more.  Visit The Third Place website to learn more about the podcast hosted by Mary Allard and David Gaines.

Mudra for Overcoming Anxiety

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An Easy Hand Movement to Overcome Anxiety

Jazz hands or silent cheer?  Whatever you call it, this simple hand movement can help to reduce anxiety and increase an overall feeling of calm. 


Has anyone else out there dealt with anxiety?  I know I’m not alone.  “Just relax,” so many people say, but what those people don’t understand is that it’s not that easy.  Whether we experience anxiety due to a traumatic event or the ongoing stresses of daily modern life, relaxing doesn’t always happen automatically.  Learning how our body’s nervous system works and ways to help it function properly can really help.  


A short biology lesson

Think back to high school biology.  Remember learning about the nervous system?  Me neither, so let me recap in an overly-simplified way.  Humans have a complex nervous system that’s explained as several different systems.  One part of the nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, supplies nerves to our internal organs.  The autonomic nervous system is further explained by breaking it down into the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system.  

The parasympathetic nervous system is the one that we operate (or are supposed to operate) on throughout the majority of our day.  It’s the part of the nervous system that supports the body in daily functions, recovery and maintenance.  The sympathetic nervous system activates in times of perceived threat.  Remember fight, flight or freeze?  When we experience a perceived threat, the sympathetic nervous system sends signals to our organs that then cause our heart rate to increase, our digestion to slow down, our pupils to dilate and our breathing to increase.  It also causes our adrenal glands to release more adrenaline and cortisol – “stress hormones”.  As long as the body perceives a threat, those stress hormones keep releasing in our bodies. 

In modern life, our bodies tend to experience a low level of threat perception frequently.  Difficult work situations, arguments at home, remembering you need to go grocery shopping, managing bills…we juggle a lot, and it all adds up.  The scars of any past traumas can add to this too.  

So what do we do when our bodies are “stuck” functioning in the sympathetic nervous system?  One thing we can do is to trick our bodies into thinking we are safe.  For some, experiencing rhythmic movement can help with this.  That’s where the hand mudra for overcoming anxiety comes in.


How to do it

  • Sit up or stand with an aligned spine
  • Raise arms while bending elbows, spread the fingers outward and pointing upward
  • Rotate wrists pivoting back and forth
  • Repeat taking long slow deep breaths
  • Do this when you feel anxious or nervous until you feel more centered 

If you’re having a hard time creating a mental image of this mudra you can think about jazz hands at ear level, but with a twisting motion as well.  Or just look at this Simon Cowell gif. 


Why it works

Doing this motion works in two ways.  First, it provides rhythmic sensory input.  Secondly, it draws our focus from in front of our eyes (where our bodies have adapted to focus on a threat) to our peripheral vision.  This takes the focus away from where we would be looking if there were a physical threat.  


Other benefits

This move has other benefits as well.  Try it to give your hands a break if you’ve been at a computer or driving for a while. Keeping the wrist channels open helps with the numbness and sometimes pain that occurs with frequent computer users (everyone these days!!) or when clenching the hands. It is referred to as “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.”  Do this wiggling of the hands and wrists daily as a preventative or for the cure. The twisting motion can help relieve tension in the tendons in your carpal tunnel.  It’s also a great way to have a large group of kids cheer without damaging your hearing. The “Silent Cheer” is used in sign language and frequently used in schools to keep children’s volume down. Give it a try!

One Program Supports Many Goals

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By Heather Sandine, Teacher and CK team member


The girl pictured is balancing her brain with a mindful technique called cupping.  Cupping helps to create a positive visualization image in the mind, supporting a Positive Mental Attitude.


You’ve probably heard the words social-emotional learning (SEL), self-regulation, mindfulness, and executive functioning lately.  2020 has created a climate where these topics are important to discuss.  However, for many, these phrases are so much more than current buzzwords hurled at our current national mental health crisis.  Schools and parents have struggled to teach these skills effectively for years.  Whose responsibility is it to teach kids these skills anyway?  Parents?  Teachers?  Do children innately develop them? Here’s what you need to know. The current COVID climate and school closures have made it more evident than ever that our children and students (and often ourselves) need these skills explicitly taught.  Where do we start?

There are myriad programs available that offer curriculum in supporting each of these skills.  Those programs can be helpful, but what do we do when access to them isn’t available or they are cost prohibitive?  What about parents and other community members who need a thorough and inexpensive way to teach these skills to their children?  


I took a CALMING KIDS(CK): Creating a Nonviolent World training about three years ago.  At the time, I was a special education resource teacher and had a significant number of students with self-regulation and social-emotional difficulties. Students frequently exhibited outbursts of work refusals, destroying other people’s property, and hitting and yelling.  These kids felt a lot of frustration and didn’t know how to cope with it. 

I had used other programs to teach coping and self-regulation skills.  They worked by teaching the kids about how their brains work and to recognize their thinking patterns.  These are important skills, but my students needed concrete techniques that they could use independently and quickly after learning them.  CALMING KIDS strategies provided this.  CK’s research-based curriculum teaches mindfulness, relaxation and body-awareness strategies to support kids’ self-regulation abilities.  Parents and teachers can also use CK curriculum to support executive-functioning skills when it is used in combination with other supports.  

What We Did

I knew it was important not to overwhelm the students by teaching too many strategies at once.  I began guiding the kids to do the CK “check in” by doing a simple body scan and then used their feedback to help them identify and communicate their emotions.  The students worked on body awareness and deep breathing using visualization techniques.  I guided the students to relate their spines to slinky toys to help encourage proper posture.  We imagined that our lungs were like a balloon expanding and contracting inside a basket that represented our ribcage.  This helped students to understand the importance of breathing deeply and expanding the diaphragm down into the belly area.  I used a Hoberman sphere to model controlling the rate of the breath.  My students then learned yoga poses to help manage and process specific emotions. 

The goal of all of these strategies was to help students recognize their emotions and to process them in a healthy way.  It didn’t take a lot of time to teach the skills either.  I was able to teach all of these strategies during transition times or sensory breaks.  

The Impact

The positive impact of these skills on my students amazed me!  Before CALMING KIDS some of my students were needing a 5-10 minute calm down break in my classroom every hour.  Those students were able to reduce their breaks to two 5-10 minute breaks during the entire school day after learning the CK strategies!  To put that into perspective, that’s up to 40 minutes of missed class time per day that I was able to help students gain back by using CK strategies.  These effects aren’t short term either.  Most of these students are now able to participate in their general education classrooms for the majority of their day.  Some students are successfully participating in online remote and hybrid learning as well.  

Effects of Mismanaging Emotions

What does my experience with a small group of students have to do with ending our national mental health crisis?  My students’ previous limited abilities to self-regulate was apparent in their frequent outbursts, but most people don’t have frequent outbursts.  Instead many develop maladaptive coping skills and habits.  Some “stuff” their emotions while others turn to drugs or alcohol.  Long-term mismanagement of emotions like fear, anger and anxiety (and even emotions that are seen as positive, such as excitement) can lead to both physical and psychiatric problems like depression, poor digestion, high blood pressure, chronic headaches, fatigue and more due to the body’s release of stress hormones such as cortisol.  The effects of long-term exposure to stress hormones is well documented in medical and psychological research.

There’s Hope

We all know that eliminating stress isn’t going to happen, but we can learn how to manage it.  It is critical that we begin prioritizing teaching, practicing and living healthy coping strategies.  My classroom impact may have helped only a small number of students, but imagine if we taught these skills in homes and schools across the country.  Imagine the positive impact we could see: improvement to our mental health, an end to bullying and school violence, less domestic violence, fewer attempts at and incidences of suicide.  All of these things are possible.  But we have to start by helping students to learn to process and communicate their emotions in a healthy way.  And we have to start doing those things for ourselves too.

Build Your Self Healing Toolbox

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Do you ever feel insecure? Like you lack creativity? Or are easily irritated with others? What about affectionate? Chatty? Imaginative? All of these qualities, and many more, lead us towards energy centers in our body called Chakras. These energy centers, when they are functioning well, help us to feel balanced, strong, and positive. When they need a tune up, we notice that because we feel overwhelmed, emotional, or lost. Those feelings are our clue that it might be time to pause and practice some deeper self care. One beautiful and simple way to practice chakra self care can be found in A Chakra Guide Book, by Dee Marie, Creator of Calming Kids. This simple yet informative workbook is also a coloring book, giving you the opportunity to slow down, absorb the color of the chakra, and contemplate the qualities that you embody when the chakra is in balance – as  you color the beautiful shapes of each chakra.

The book also includes several simple yoga series, breathing meditations, and sound vibrations you can use to engage your whole system, or to focus on a particular chakra.

Do you have a color that you are drawn to? Is there a particular issue that keeps showing up in your life? Is there an area of your body that experiences injury, pain, or illness? These questions can lead you to a particular chakra that needs some attention. As you deepen your awareness of these energy centers, you can heal yourself through color therapy, sound vibrations, movement, and breath. Although you may or may not notice an immediate shift, as you work with the subtle energy in your body, your life begins to change. Negative patterns dissolve, habits shift, and you cease recreating the same unhealthy situations. You learn to notice more quickly when you are out of balance, and you build your toolbox for self-healing. Learning about the chakras, and knowing simple tools for healing them, can bring peace, strength, and empowerment.


October is Non-Violence Month

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CALMING KIDS (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World was founded on the principle of AHIMSA, which means respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards oneself and others. CK believes that fostering peace by training young people in techniques proven to promote harmony, nonviolence, and positive interactions will eventually phase out violence from our world. October is Non-Violence Month, and it is kicked off by the UN International Day of Non-Violence on October 2, which is Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. For Gandhi, AHIMSA meant non-injury, nonviolence, non-harm, the renunciation of the intention to hurt any living thing, the abstention from hostile thought, word or deed, and compassion for all living creatures. Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.”

CK promotes nonviolence in young people, but it was inspired by violence perpetrated by and against young people – the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Our children are a barometer for the health of our world, and CK’s primary goal is to promote a positive, peaceful attitude leading to calm and effective communication among members of the school community. Since 2004, CK has impacted countless students, teachers and schools, sharing this “greatest force” that Gandhi spoke of with the people who will lead the next generation.

As we enter Non-Violence Month, you might contemplate ways that you are promoting harmony through the things that you think, speak and do. When you have an impulse to speak with anger, can you pause, breathe, and remember your intention to refrain from hostile thoughts, words, and deeds? What happens in your own body and mind when you think about speaking or acting in a way that would harm another being? And how can you practice AHIMSA – compassion – towards yourself? Black Elk said, “All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves.” Perhaps in that brief moment of awareness before word or action, we can remember that if we think, speak or do something harmful to another, it very likely will bring harm back to us. It is especially obvious when it involves our spouse, child or student, and perhaps less so with a stranger, but the harmful impact on ourselves is just as real.

Martin Luther King Jr, who firmly believed in nonviolence as a means for social change, said, “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love.” This month, practice your commitment to the way of love…even and especially when that is difficult. Let the “greatest force at the disposal of mankind” give you the power to be the change you wish to see in the world.

And see HERE for a free lesson plan on bringing non-violence and communication skills to young people!

Kids Yoga Teacher Training Lesson Plan FREE

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Kids yoga teacher training for all teachers and instructors PLEASE use the free syllabus HERE guiding you through the proper method to present a 6 Day Yoga program to your Kindergarten or Elementary School classroom ensuring these proven outcomes:

Yoga Mat

  • Kids Yoga Enhances Confidence
  • Kids Yoga Improves Concentration and Focus
  • Kids Yoga Helps Kids Manage Stress Through Breathing
  • Kids Yoga Promotes Inclusivity
  • Kids Yoga Introduces Kids to Mindfulness
  • Kids Yoga Promotes a Healthy Body
  • Kids Yoga Improves Coordination & Balance

Classroom Yoga ~ a solution to school violence and it works!

CALMING KIDS: Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom
2018-2019 Study Results

Students reported: 2018 – 2019
Feeling good about themselves 48%  increase     
Standing up for themselves 48%  increase 
Focusing in school 30%  increase 
Feeling angry for no reason 55%  decrease
Physical altercations in school 38%  decrease
Trouble controlling anger 35%  decrease 

In addition, three times the number of students reported that they could handle others making fun of them in school as compared to before learning the CALMING KIDS techniques (178% increase).
Statistics based on 100 students between the ages of 11 – 13 reporting their experience before and after 6 sessions of movement, mindfulness & meditation training and practice throughout the school year. CALMING KIDS (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World since 2004

Day One – What is Yoga?

The Balance of Body and Mind

Get the 6 Day Curriculum


Day Two – How Do You Breathe?

Practices to Regulate the Breath 


Kids Yoga Breathing


The students start to understand that the connection of the body to the mind is their breath.

Here’s the free full 6 day curriculum

Day Three – How Do You Feel?

Checking in: emotional awareness, communication and anti-bullying

Day Four – Community 

Finding Our Heart 

Day Five – Why Exercise?

The Benefits of Exercise


Yoga Exercise


Day Six – Relationships 

Anti-Bullying – Relationship Games – Bring It All Together

Starting with movement and mindfulness is a great way to start each day!!

Get the full Six Day Free Curriculum HERE


Calming Kids


Allowing 10-15 mins at the start of every day for centering will increase focus, social emotional balance, and positive communication skills.






The CALMING KIDS (CK) Six Day On-Line Kids Yoga Teacher Training Lesson Plans includes:

  • Handouts illustrating all the concepts presented with coloring pages, activity ideas and songs. 
  • Scripts with non-violent communication models for the play acting scenarios.
  • A discussion forum with thought provoking questions and insights shared by other teachers.
  • An easy quiz at the end of each module of learning to review what you have learned.
  • Open access to the online site for reference and to enhance your capacity to teach mindfulness and non-violent education to elementary age students.

CALMING KIDS offers two levels of certification. One is given upon the completion of the online course. Participants are issued a downloadable certificate to hang in the classroom, school or studio. For teachers who would like to receive continuing education credit, CALMING KIDS offers a deeper level certification in order to become a nationally accredited CALMING KIDS Children’s Yoga Educator for Elementary Age students. This is achieved by teaching a minimum of six hours of the CK program to children and keeping a detailed log. This log is submitted to CALMING KIDS for evaluation and certification. A small additional fee is applied. To enroll in the full course please CLICK HERE.


Bullying | Local Non-profit Addresses School Violence

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With all the tragedy and violence in our schools today, teaching kids self regulation and stress reduction is more important than ever. Since 2004, CALMING KIDS (CK): is a local Boulder non-profit, has been focused on immediate and direct impact to reduce bullying and increase self regulation in kids and teens. 

On February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida experienced one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. This tragedy Bullying in schoolshas left Americans across the country heartbroken, frustrated, and wondering how we, as individuals, can make a difference in stopping this vicious and violent behavior.

CALMING KIDS has been addressing this issue for years. CK, a Colorado 501(c)3, was created after the tragic shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, for this exact reason. For the past 13 years, they have worked with teachers and students in Colorado and around the world to reduce bullying and violence in schools. In addition, to helping develop better coping mechanisms and increasing students’ compassion for one another.

Calling your state representatives and supporting today’s youth in creating safer schools in the long term is undeniably important. But, what can we do right now, TODAY?

If you want to make a positive difference and feel passionately about ending school violence, then the best place to start is in the schools! This is exactly what CALMING KIDS is doing with their classroom programs.

CALMING KIDS has impacted 3,500 teachers and over 40,000 students through their work in schools locally, nationally and globally.

Anti Bullying Teaching Program

There is still so much more to be done. CK is looking to expand its impact and wants to get the word out to as many school teachers and administrators, students, parents, and to those who feel concerned about this issue. We CAN make a difference and help to create a non-violent world, stop bullying in schools and help kids focus.

In addition to classroom programs, CK has also produced a variety of support materials for teachers and students:

  • including classroom workbooks,
  • self regulation posters,
  • educational films

and a new pocket sized movement, mindfulness and meditation book, Finding Calm in a Moment. This book guides students of all ages through a variety of simple practices to release stress and self regulate immediately. Get involved NOW! Visit our website to learn more www.calmingkids.org

For more information contact: calmingkidsyoga@gmail.com or 303-530-3860.

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