Pilot - Stress Management in Schools Working with the pupils

Primary School 1(1993)

These children seemed to be suffering high levels of stress. Within the school system, this class was made up of selected pupils, 17 in all. Absenteeism was high in this class.

The children tended to be hyperactive with short attention spans, many were unable to remain seated. They demanded a high level of individual attention. Some of the children appeared tired, some undernourished. The teacher supported these observations.

We agreed to do six sessions. In the initial one, with two therapists, it was difficult to get attention and focus from the class although they did respond to the exercises - possibly due to the novelty of the situation. Some could not relax, they kept shifting position, looking at others, whispered, diverted attention.

By the third session, a marked shift was obvious; there was more focus Their bodies were more attuned to the demands made by the various exercises.

Comments from the therapists
From the second session onwards, the pupils, in general , enjoyed the sessions, particularly the relaxation. There was a subtle shift in their attitude of never quite doing enough, not being good enough. In the stretching exercises, some of the children pushed themselves so hard that they would hurt themselves, they started to see that this was not necessary to do a good job.

It was clear that many of them were developing a sense of being in their bodies, of being sensitive to each other. This was clear in an exercise in which they had to lead another blind-folded child - they took responsibility for the safety of the blind-folded child very seriously and they felt very safe with each other.

In this situation they were given respect. Their behaviour was seen as part of their situation and was not judged. For some children, there seemed to be a conflict between the home environment and working with us; this may have been the result of the different attitudes in the two situations and seeing that it doesn't have to be one particular way. Other people do things differently.

The reactions of the pupils in certain situations supports the view that working with the parents at the same time could have helped as their understanding may have assisted the children to work the process.