Emotional intelligence key in programme taught around New Zealand

Kristin School is one of many around the country running the mindfulness programme Pause, Breathe, Smile.
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Kristin School is one of many around the country running the mindfulness programme Pause, Breathe, Smile.

Teaching children emotional intelligence at school is just as important as teaching them traditional subjects, says a principal.

That is why his school is running the Pause, Breathe, Smile programme, which teaches students mindfulness.

The programme is taught in 200 schools around New Zealand including Kristin School on Auckland's North Shore.

The programme is taught to students through a one-hour session once a week.
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The programme is taught to students through a one-hour session once a week.

Middle school principal Dave Scott said most schools have a health and wellbeing programme.

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"I just think it's making students more aware about themselves and their learning and how they approach, not only their lessons, but other parts of their lives, and realise how important it is to pause, breathe and smile, if you like."

Teacher Nicola Hackett, right, leads a mindfulness session.
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Teacher Nicola Hackett, right, leads a mindfulness session.

He said, while in year 7, students are specifically taught mindfulness. The hope is the practice will diffuse throughout the school.

"Our goal is to, rather than say you're doing mindfulness now, is to infuse it into learning."

Year 7 and 8 syndicate leader Nicola Hackett said the mindfulness training was hugely varied but focused on making sure students recognised how they were feeling, and giving them tools to deal with different situations.

"Unless you're taught these things, you're going to deal with things the way you always have," Hackett said.

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"The ultimate aim is that they recognise their feelings and, if things are going wrong, they know how to bring it back."

Scott said school wasn't just about learning subjects, but also making pupils better people.

"We're very conscious that we have an obligation to make sure our students are equipped in emotional intelligence, as much as they are in intelligence."

The developer of the programme, Grant Rix, said the programme developed skills that would help kids navigate life's challenges.

He said the eight-week programme also helps academically by increasing focus and attention. It is in line with the New Zealand curriculum and incorporates everything from health to science.

"Pause, Breathe, Smile can increase wellbeing in children. What we're finding is kids are calm, more focused, more self-aware and social skills are increasing through participation in the programme," Rix said.

"We know that anxiety is increasing in children and young people, that depression is the leading cause of disability and we know young people are struggling with increased stress due to modern living.

"Mindfulness can address exactly these issues."

The programme is run in schools by the Mindfulness Education Group, of which Rix is the director, and was developed with the Mental Health Foundation.

 - Stuff

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