CLARENCE, N.Y. — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitals across the country saw a 24% increase between March and May of 2020 in the proportion of mental health emergency visits by kids ages 5-11 and a 31% increase for kids ages 12-17.​

With many children still dealing with the stress of the pandemic, a local holistic therapist is working to help kids find positive ways to deal with personal stress.

Helping adults work through stressful situations is something that life coach and mental health counselor Lana Shapiro has done for nearly 20 years. But after noticing behavior changes in her own two children, she realized even little ones need a mental break.

“With everything that’s been going on in the news recently and all the studies that have come out about an increase in mental health symptoms for children with anxiety and depression, I just decided to create a class to help kids learn very basic mindfulness skills,” said Shapiro.

According to CDC data, the proportion of mental health emergency visits for kids started going up early on in the pandemic. Feeling the after-effects of this in her own home, Shapiro started teaching mindfulness classes for kids from ages 5-11 at Soul Healing Center in Clarence. The 45-minute class teaches movement through the use of yoga and breathing to help children better manage their emotions.

“I have them move through them so we make it playful, they get to jump, sometimes we dance and it’s really just a way for them to move their bodies," said Shapiro.

The kids also go through tapping, a technique Shapiro used in therapy that helps younger children release built-up emotions and normalize feelings.

“We go through a series of different points on their bodies that they tap and as they’re doing the tapping, they come up with a feeling they want to get rid of," Shapiro said.

She ends sessions with tactile arts and crafts and adds information for parents

“I actually encourage parents to stay through the class so they continue it at home, because the important thing is we keep it consistent," said Shapiro.

She says it's important to use her knowledge to help children get through these difficult times when gun violence seems like the norm.

“There’s so many kids that are now afraid to go to school; they don’t feel safe there anymore," Shapiro said. "Unfortunately, we can’t control what’s going on in the outside world, but we can control ourselves.”

Classes are $12 per child and take place every Monday at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and on Thursdays at 4 p.m.

For more information, click here.