Programme helps pupils with emotions, relationships

Opoho School deputy principal Lucy Marr holds a platter of food for her year 3 and 4 pupils...
Opoho School deputy principal Lucy Marr holds a platter of food for her year 3 and 4 pupils during their Pause, Breathe, Smile session. Photo: Peter McIntosh
A Dunedin primary school is benefiting from an emotional regulation technique helping pupils pause, breathe and smile.

Pause, Breathe, Smile (PBS) is a mindfulness and health programme being implemented in schools across New Zealand to help children aged 5 to 12 regulate their emotions, pay attention and build positive relationships.

Ōpoho School deputy principal Lucy Marr said the programme offered an extra tool for teachers to support pupils.

"It’s about being able to be reasonable about a problem rather than make it a big problem.

"Pause, Breathe, Smile gives us the tools to talk about it."

She said the tool was not a "one-night wonder" but was more of a long-term approach.

"By the time our students leave us at year 6 we want to have equipped them with these skills to be calm, positive students.

"We love our sports and we love our arts but it’s important to be mindfully healthy as well."

Pupils at Ōpoho had three lessons for 20 minutes every week, where they would practise mindfulness techniques including breathing exercises.

Since 2020, PBS had reached more than 140,000 children, 8730 teachers and educators in more than 440 schools.

Former director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield was a PBS ambassador. He said an independent report analysing the programme was what motivated him to support it.

The report, commissioned by science communication agency Mindquip, found pupil wellbeing scores went up by 16.8%.

Increases in positive behaviours and characteristics and decreases in those considered negative were also seen.