I believe that children should learn about their mental and emotional wellbeing in the same way that they learn to read, write and ride a bike. It should be a discreet subject that is part of the school curriculum right from the Foundation Stage of learning. I actually think that to equip our children with the understanding and skills to manage their feelings and emotions, tackle difficult or stressful situations, challenge negative self-talk, build self-esteem and confidence and practise self-care is fundamental to and underpins children's ability to learn and develop positive relationships. It should be at the core of everything schools do. Now, more than ever.
I have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful children in different schools and have been blown away by some of the success stories. It brings great joy to see the children's reactions and to see how their response to learning these new skills is so positive. One of the best things I have heard, which came at the end of one pupil's first session, is "What is this feeling?! I've never felt this before!" His mind and body had reached an entirely new level of regulation. There was a stark difference in the way he quietly floated out of the room to the way he noisily crashed in.
But don't take my word for it. Sandie Robinson: SENCO and Angela Feeley: Pupil and Family Support Lead at Salhouse V.C C of E Primary School explain how Calm Cats has been an invaluable intervention for their pupils.
"Calm Cats has proved to be an invaluable intervention for the children in our school who have required additional support with regulating their emotions and behaviour. Hannah is always well prepared and professional in her approach and thoughtfully sets up a lovely calm space for the children to be in. Hannah has a good knowledge of pupils with additional needs. she is very adept at maintaining a safe and secure environment and managing the pupils in her care.
The sessions have been running in school since January 2020 once a week for an afternoon. Sixteen children have accessed the programme and all have expressed a positive response to the sessions. As a school, we had a baseline and exit measure in order to evaluate the success of the programme. Hannah uses SDQs with the children which are beneficial to school as additional evidence to measure the impact.
Comments from the children include:
"I like Calm Cats because it is all good."
"Makes me feel calm."
"Makes me feel good and smiley."
"Calm Cats makes me feel happier and calmer."
"Talk to Mum and Bill about Calm cats and tell them what I liked."
"I would feel sad if I couldn’t do Calm Cats."
"I like the dark."
"I liked listening to the sound bowl."
"Liked the bubbles."
In school following the Calm Cats sessions, staff noticed that children returned to their classes more relaxed and noticeably calmer. Staff also reported that the children looked forward to the sessions. For some children, one pupil in particular, the sessions provided a much needed time when they could unwind, relax and begin to learn how to self-regulate, and talk about feelings and emotions. Hannah also used Zones of Regulation to help capture how the children were feeling at the beginning and end of sessions.
The children have benefitted immensely from the Calm Cat’s sessions, so much so that we will continue with the programme in school as part of well-being intervention for our pupils.
(Sandie Robinson: SENCO
Angela Feeley: Pupil and Family Support Lead)
In September when our children go back to school having been away for such a long, confusing and stressful time, they are going to need tools to support them. They will need to be given the time to understand and process their feelings and emotions during the school day. They will need relaxation time to let their minds rest from the demands of the curriculum they find themselves immersed in once more. They will need time to reset and breathe regularly throughout the day. The tools to manage their anxieties about being away from home, in an environment that may look different to how they left it.
It is inevitable that children's mental health will have been impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic and that their transition back to 'normal' school life will be challenging. Calm Cats sessions are the perfect intervention to include in a schools recovery curriculum and to help with the transition back to school.
To find out further details and to book sessions for your school, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.