MADISON, Wisc. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — The rates of bullying, substance abuse, anxiety and depression are growing among teens and even pre-teens. Now psychologists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison believe they have found something that can decrease the likelihood of some of these problems emerging.

They learn alphabets and numbers, but is kindness a skill that can be taught?

“It’s fundamentally no different than learning how to play the violin or learning to do sports,” said Richard Davidson, PhD, the director and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Davidson developed the mindfulness-based kindness curriculum for preschoolers to help them pay closer attention to their emotions.

“Part of the curriculum involves being able to tune into sensations in the body and learn to identify them and respond to them in an appropriate way,” he said.

One of the techniques he uses in class that parents can use with kids at home is belly breathing. Davidson tested the curriculum on a group of preschoolers.

“We found that kids who went through the kindness curriculum behaved more altruistically," he said.

Davidson found that the kids in the kindness curriculum had a better attention span, better grades and showed a higher level of social competence. Emily Golliher uses the kindness curriculum in her elementary school and says it’s vital for child development.

“If we can spend time and teach students how to be kind to themselves and kind to others that is just going to have a ripple effect across the school environment,” she said.

The mindfulness-based kindness curriculum is free to download from the Center of Healthy Minds’ website and is available in both English and Spanish. Davidson said the curriculum does not only have to be limited to schools and there are simple strategies that parents can try at home.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer.