As an 11 year old Katy enjoyed sports, playing with friends and her pets. She experienced difficulties at primary school including feeling rushed, bullies, falling out with people and maths.
While generally happy with life, she struggled to be confident in her appearance, worried about the future and having to take tests. In order to address Katy’s worries Now Unlimited, a UK based Social Enterprise specialising in mindfulness-based personal and organisational development delivered their Primary Emotional Resilience Programme.
Katy was able to express feelings of loneliness, worry, guilt, frustration and being frightened in response to the difficulties she faced. She was also aware of her heart beating faster and in extreme cases nausea. Sometimes she would shut down as she struggled to process her emotions. Other responses included eating unhealthily, taking it out on other people and not going to school. She recognised that when she did this the problems went away for a short while, but then they come back and she often felt worse.
However, Katy believed that friends helped her to feel good about herself by offering help and support. Katy believed that trust, understanding and spending time together built friendships, while lies, snitching, jealousy and having secrets prevent this.
A bespoke package was discussed and agreed with Katy’s parents prior to delivery. They were very impressed by the evidence of the effectiveness of a mindfulness based approach throughout the consultation and it formed the basis for an introductory meeting with school staff on the Primary Emotional Resilience Programme.
“Although mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, Now Unlimited have adopted an evidence based, non-religious ethos which makes the content practical and accessible to all.”
After agreeing the learning outcomes and assessment methods that were relevant to for the Primary Emotional Resilience Programme with the senior leadership team, a project consisting of 7 x 1 hour sessions including mindfulness based approaches was devised. Pupils were actively involved in the learning and assessment processes; providing feedback on course content and delivery, self-assessments and peer assessments.
The key themes explored as part of the course were:
♦ The brain and how it can be trained to be more effective
♦ The causes and effects of difficulties in children
♦ Developing and maintaining positive relationships
♦ Social and moral dilemmas young people face and how to handle them
♦ Preparing for change
Sessions were led in the classroom with the help of teachers and teaching assistants.
“The combination of a teacher training workshop introducing mindfulness and classroom based sessions with pupils provided a strong foundation for us to build upon.”
Each session for pupils included the following activities:
♦ A short breathing practice as a strategy for settling the children after playtime
♦ Sharing of the thoughts and emotions mindfulness practice evoked and what they learned
♦ Theme-based reflection in small groups e.g. What causes us stress?
♦ Introduction of mindful practices adapted for children
♦ A self-awareness activity
♦ Problem solving activities
“Now Unlimited had a vast toolbox of creative and visual ways to obtain feedback from pupils that really engaged them in activities and obviously has extensive experience of and passion for working with children.”
By the end of the programme Katy had developed coping strategies based on mindful approaches:
♦ The ability to sit quietly for a couple of minutes and to focus on her body and her breath
♦ Describing in detail how her body felt when she experienced different emotions; e.g. “when I was afraid it felt like an icicle running through me”
♦ She was increasingly able to label her thoughts and emotions accurately e.g. “I felt annoyed and restless, and it was harder to sit still.”
♦ Katy explained the course taught her how things that gave her pleasure (e.g. stroking her cat) helped her to complete activities that gave her a sense of achievement (e.g. finishing her homework on time) “taking time to think about how I feel helps me to stop falling out with friends”
The Primary Emotional Resilience Programme helped Katy to develop a greater awareness of herself and her interactions with others. She has a better understanding of the pressures and challenges in her life and the impact they have. Finally, she has used what she learned to develop strategies to handle these pressures which include using mindfulness practices.
Get in touch to organise your free consultation to see how Now Unlimited’s Primary Emotional Resilience Programme can benefit your Primary School. We can also develop our learning outcomes for Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities.