Children’s Mental Health Week Special, part 2

Earlier this week we published our first blog for Children’s Mental Health week, looking at the work being done to support school children with their mental health, specifically with school phobia.

Through our work in schools, we have come across many individuals who are invested in the mental health and well-being of children. Our second contributor to our Children’s Mental Health Week series is Sarah Gale, a Primary School Teacher and Simply Mindfulness team member.  She was kind enough to speak to us about her in-school mental health observations and supporting work.


“Mental Health issues in children aren’t necessarily diagnosed by a doctor and given a label. As a Primary School Teacher, I frequently come across children who struggle to maintain concentration in school, and those who struggle to have happy playtimes and lunchtimes. It might be friendship issues, or just a one-off argument with a friend. Sometimes these events, and the emotions connected to them, can stay with a child long after playtime has ended, which results in poor focus in class.

“I have come across children who suffer with anxiety and lack confidence in themselves, which can mean they always feel they need adult support with their schoolwork or are afraid of getting something wrong. They might have anxieties about speaking in front of an audience or preparing for an exam.

“Of course, there are also some children who have complicated family and home lives, which can be hard to ’switch off’ from in order to concentrate in lessons. There are children who have happy home lives but may have had an argument with a sibling or parent one morning, and they arrive at school feeling wobbly and unable to begin the day in the right frame of mind for learning.

“While it’s nice to believe that childhood is happy and carefree, I think all children have phases of enduring difficulties in life or experiencing worries or anxiety about something. It’s a normal part of growing up. It’s how children are taught, or how they learn, to cope and manage such issues that really can change the course of their mental health as they progress into adulthood.”

Learning Mindfulness

“I began learning mindfulness with Simply Mindfulness and completed the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course in 2017. After this, I tried to teach my own children some mindfulness, as my son often struggled to go to sleep at bedtime. I heard about the MiSP Paws b course and felt it would be a wonderful thing be able to teach, as the course covered a lot of techniques that would be so beneficial to children.

“Mindfulness is ‘being alive and knowing it”. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founding father of secular mindfulness

“The MiSP Paws b course is a 6 hour long programme designed for children aged 7-11. It teaches children some neuroscience about their brains, and the difference between their brain and their mind. They learn about making choices, how ‘feeling wobbly’ presents itself in their bodies, and how our thoughts can escalate these physical sensations. Children are taught about being present and even have the opportunity to experience some mindful eating!

“These topics are all presented using child friendly visuals and video clips, to prompt thought and discussion, and of course plenty of time is given to practising the mindfulness techniques.

“Over 75% of the class said learning mindfulness was very useful”

Mindfulness in action

“Children I have taught the MiSP Paws b course to said mindfulness would most help them with ‘worrying, feeling sad, or being angry’, ‘concentrating’, and ‘knowing what to do when I wobble’. Over 75% of the class said learning mindfulness was very useful. Several children also commented that they experienced calming and relaxing effects when they were learning and practising the mindfulness techniques. For a child to have learned some mindfulness in school, and to know that mindfulness techniques exist, may give them the knowledge and tools to return to, or rediscover, mindfulness in the future when experiencing stressful circumstances, rather than allowing their mental health to spiral out of control.

“To be a successful teacher of mindfulness…you need to practise it yourself.”

What can schools do to aid mindfulness?

“Bringing mindfulness to schools is just one way for schools to help their pupils and staff. Ideally, all teachers would have undergone the 8-week mindfulness course for adults, as research has shown that to be a successful teacher of mindfulness (or in this case, to fully support your pupils in their use of mindfulness techniques), you need to practise it yourself. After the children have been taught the MiSP Paws b course, ideally teachers or schools would incorporate a few minutes of mindfulness practice into the school day. For example, it might be after a busy playtime or lunchtime, to refocus and calm the mind, ready to begin learning again.”

It is clear that pupils can struggle with a wide range of issues. However, Sarah’s experiences have shown us that there are many ways we can help pupils develop the tools to help them cope with the anxieties they experience.

Our well-being review evaluates the policies and procedures that your school has in place and will provide a report of strengths, areas for development and an action plan to address any issues identified. Please contact us today if you would like to discuss further.

Read part 1 of our special Children’s Mental Health Week series from earlier this week. 

Please share this post