Kids: Just when you think you’ve heard it all, along comes … well, Sydney. Sydney is the 3-year-old granddaughter of HeartMath Qualified Instructor Debra Sheehan, who has been giving biweekly Early HeartSmarts® lessons to her three grandchildren, siblings Sydney, Xavier, 6 and Savannah, 9.
Recently, during a Sunday school lesson, Sydney’s teachers called on each child to share what was unique or special about him or her.
When it was her turn, Sydney answered, “Shift and Shine.”
Shift and Shine: What is that? the Sunday school teachers wondered. Sydney explained by teaching this HeartMath tool for children to the instructors and other class members, who were of varying ages.
One of the teachers was very impressed, certainly by Sydney’s clarity and giftedness, but also by the Shift and Shine® Technique, a signature tool of the Early HeartSmarts Ages 3-6 program. The teacher, Patty, said the technique was something that should be incorporated into the local Head Start program.
Sheehan is passionate about the importance of building a strong foundation in young children.
“Ages zero through 6 is such an important time to plant habits that might have a lifelong impact,” Sheehan said. She spends up to a half hour every other week, or as long as the children can sustain their focus, working with them and the Early HeartSmarts program.
Sydney appears to be quite passionate herself, when it comes to Early HeartSmarts. On one occasion, Savannah had missed a lesson about emotional vocabulary and face recognition, so Sydney took charge and reviewed the lesson with her big sister.
“She is so articulate and direct for her age,” Sheehan marveled.
The program Sydney and Sheehan are so impressed with was developed by researchers who incorporated decades of studies and findings related to a child’s first six years of life. They found that this period, before formal education begins, was crucial for teaching children social and emotional skills that will serve them for life.
Sixty or so years ago, Maria Montessori emphasized the importance of nurturing young children and warned that abandoning children in the 'earliest formative period of development will become the worst threat to [our] own survival.' …Early HeartSmarts is the most progressive and encouraging program for preschoolers of which I am aware.
Study Helped Launch Early HeartSmarts
A comprehensive study of the Early HeartSmarts program in the 2006-07 academic year at 19 preschools in Salt Lake City School District succeeded in bolstering the science on which the program is predicated.
The pre-program scores in 10 measures for participants were significantly lower than those of students in the rest of the district’s preschools, but that changed after Early HeartSmarts. Their scores by the end of the year for all 10 measures were higher than their peers’, according to the study, Facilitating Emotional Self-Regulation in Preschool Children: Efficacy of the Early HeartSmarts Program in Promoting Social, Emotional and Cognitive Development.
Afterward, HMI Director of Education and Humanities Dr. Robert Rees said the study “demonstrates that a curriculum which focuses on teaching young children about their emotions and teaching them basic emotion-refocusing skills can produce dramatic results.”
Early HeartSmarts teaches preschoolers’ skills that help them recognize and name their own and others’ feelings and to self-regulate their emotions and behavior. In addition to Shift and Shine, children receive demonstrations of positive attitudes about learning and of problem-solving skills. They also learn special adaptations of Quick Coherence and Heart Lock-In, two of HeartMath’s most effective techniques.
In their project assessment, study evaluators made the following observation about Early HeartSmarts and other programs with similar aims: “The integration of programs designed to foster socioemotional competence into educational curricula – beginning at preschool – should help prevent manifestation of much of the psychosocial dysfunction and pathology that not only robs individuals of a fulfilling life, but also results in an enormous cost to society,” they wrote in part.
Grandmother Sees Results With HeartSmarts
Sheehan said she continually finds applications for Early Heartmarts.
Grandson Xavier has a stuttering problem, and Sheehan asked him one day if she could stop him when he stuttered and guide him in the Shift and Shine Technique. He agreed and his stuttering stopped immediately after practicing the technique.
Last month, the three grandchildren, Sydney, Xavier and Savannah, were arguing over something, so Sheehan stepped in and asked them to do a Shift and Shine. The bickering stopped.
Quick Steps of Shift and Shine®
- Step 1. Put your attention on your heart or the center of your chest. It helps to put your hand over your heart area.
- Step 2. Take three breaths while pretending to breath in and out of your heart.
- Step 3. Think of someone or something that makes you feel happy, like mom or dad or a special place you visit. Feel that happy feeling in your heart and shine it to someone or something special.
Early HeartSmarts’ Five Main Curriculum Components†
- Connecting the physical and emotional aspects of the heart
- Recognizing and understanding emotions
- Learning to self-regulate emotions
- Expressing love and care to family and others
- Becoming problem-solvers
† For more information, visit Early HeartSmarts.