“It’s Cool 2B Kind”
For the more senior children in Primary school we believe the idea of sitting on a bench when you are feeling lonely or need a friend makes them too vulnerable. So our program is less about using the bench as a way of reaching out and more like a symbol of friendship and kindness.
During this workshop we ask “what does mental health mean”?
We highlight how important friends are to our mental well being.
Friendships help give meaning to their lives, they make them feel like they belong, and provide support during tough times. They’re pretty central their happiness and well being. We all need kindness to grow. The programme releases the stigma of asking for help and celebrates the children who act with compassion, kindness and empathy.
The students explore what exclusion feels like – lonely, sad, angry, scary, rejected, and we compare it to what inclusion feels like – accepted, warm, safe, valued, and happy. Children can feel how positive qualities such as kindness and compassion feel in their bodies.
We place the social responsibility upon the students to monitor the yard or the bench for anyone who may be feeling excluded and empower them to respond. They are Buddy Ambassadors. They have the power inside themselves to grow friendships with kindness.
We teach children to recognise and respond to their own feelings – different emotions feel different on the inside, physically. If you can identify your feelings and are aware of them you can make choices of how to appropriately respond to them.
We teach kids to notice how others are feeling on the inside by the clues they give on the outside. To become more resilient we need supportive relationships and emotional awareness, understanding and expressing our feelings in constructive ways. We can learn to practice kindness and empathy to others. Kids can learn social and emotional skills that will build resilience and well being in their lives into adulthood.
The feedback from our programmes is very promising – we are currently completing an evaluation with the Mental Health Social Research Unit at NUI Maynooth. According to teachers’ ratings, children show more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they feel upset. Their social and emotional development has improved, the children showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly, and had cultivated the life skills that have been linked to health and success in later life
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