Three little words – pause, breathe and smile – are helping school children deal with stress, anger, and anxiety in the classroom and at home.
Pause, Breathe, Smile classes, funded by Nirvana Health Group in South Auckland schools, are teaching kids to manage their emotions and improve their concentration.
The programme was developed in New Zealand to teach children mindfulness, to relax and focus, and the science behind positive mental health and wellbeing.
Nirvana Health Group chose three Otara schools for a trial of the lessons last year because it wants to help improve children’s wellbeing in the communities it serves, Pause, Breathe, Smile educator Kerry Atma says.
Dawson Primary and Bairds Mainfreight Primary School have continued with the classes with Nirvana Health Group’s help this year.
Lessons to take home too
Bairds Mainfreight Deputy Principal Fiona McAree-Ngaau says the children use mindfulness to cope when they are stressed or upset.
“An example is when a child is about to do an assessment, they will quite often stop and take a big, deep breath first. We also have children telling us how they use Pause, Breathe, Smile when dealing with stressful situations out of school too,” Fiona says.
“Children who take part in Pause, Breathe, Smile are definitely calmer and more focused, which obviously helps their learning.”
Fiona says the lessons promote hauora (wellbeing) in the children, which is even bigger than their education.
Learning to live life well
Tutor Kerry is welcomed with big smiles and hugs when he arrives for lessons at the schools.
He says some of the kids are learning for the first time key ways to control their life and feelings.
“Education is so much more than just about how to learn the skills to make a living in the future. It’s about learning how to live too,” he says
“Mindfulness teaches kids the invaluable skills of how to deal with the stresses and demands of life, how to manage emotions, and express love and gratitude.”
The children are taught mindful meditation, eating, and movement techniques. They also learn about the brain and how to settle scattered thinking through fun exercises.
Building self confidence
Children learn to spot the signs they are getting angry and use mindfulness to calm themselves down.
Kerry says one boy who was disruptive in class learned skills to calm down, focus, and be more respectful. His writing skills also soared by six levels because he could utilise the teacher’s support and actually get work finished.
The children’s improved focus also helps them build their self-confidence, he says.
Kerry trained with Grant Rix of the Mindfulness Education Group who developed the Pause, Breathe, Smile programme while working for the Mental Health Foundation.
He also teaches the Mindfulness and Awareness Aotearoa wellness course, offered throughout Auckland to Nirvana Health Group’s adult patients.
(Note: Pause, Breathe, Smile training sessions are held throughout New Zealand. Upcoming workshops for school teachers to become certified educators of this programme are listed at mindfulnesseducation.nz . Mindfulness Education Group has developed BREATHE, a supporting online course to improve teacher wellbeing by helping reduce stress and burnout. This personal development course is $89.00 for eight, 60-minute video sessions and can be purchased through its website.)