The Buddy Bench Children's Mental Health programme for teachers gives teachers the skills to deliver our online programme to their students in their classrooms. This online training works around teachers’ busy schedule as it is offered on demand and online. It is developed by our in-house professionals and is informed by the latest evidence.
Buddy Bench programme staff, are then available to support teachers and schools with the development and implementation of the ‘Children's Mental Health’ programme. Teachers can choose from over 100 downloadable resources to work on in class. The programmes are designed to be delivered one hour a week for eight weeks, focusing on a different social and emotional skill each week depending on the students’ needs at the time. The programme does not need to be completed by a set date, however. Teachers can work through the programme at their own pace, and can concentrate or spend more time with one lesson plan, depending on their students’ needs.
After completing our programme, children learn how positive qualities such as kindness and compassion feel in their bodies.We explore what exclusion feels like in our bodies – and we discuss how inclusion makes us feel. We teach kids to notice how others are feeling on the inside by the clues they give on the outside.
The Buddy Bench Programme is a suite of universal, age appropriate, early intervention programmes that seek to promote a culture of self-expression, listening, tolerance, resilience, and mutual support and is taught by teachers in their classroom.
For children aged three to nine years, we use a physical Buddy Bench™ placed in the school's playground as a visual tool alongside highly interactive programme to teach emotional skills they can carry into adulthood.
For the older students we use the Buddy Bench as a symbolic visual tool to teach them how to identify and express their feelings. The Buddy Bench reminds us to be our kindest selves. The programme releases the stigma of asking for help and celebrates children who act with compassion, kindness and empathy.
Buddy Bench Ireland’s "Little Buddies Early Years" online program prepares preschool children to transition into primary school. This programme is taught by the members of staff who have taken the "Children's Mental Health" course, where they gain the skills to deliver the programme in their early years setting themselves.
Transitions are a critical time for children’s growth and development. They provide an opportunity to not just survive change, but to thrive and grow from change. Facing such a challenge, with the right support behind them, children can develop resilience and resources of strength and courage that will stay with them their whole lives.
With the theme of thinking for example, we discuss how they might begin to try solving their own problems first, e.g. how to sort out an argument with their brother or sister, before asking for help from Mam or Dad.
This programme is taught by the primary school teachers who have taken the "Children's Mental Health" course, where they gain the skills to deliver the programme themselves, in their classroom.
The "Little Buddies" teaches children to become aware of their feelings and emotions. By gently teaching them how to name feelings and emotions, how these emotions feel in their body and how to ‘‘move their mood’’ if necessary. Teaching children the importance of being kind to themselves and others, using a visual tool, a Buddy Bench.
This programme is taught by primary school teachers who have taken the "Children's Mental Health" course, where they gain the skills to deliver the programme themselves, in their classroom.
Exclusion, isolation or fears of being left out can create anxiety for any child, so we have built our "Kindness Buddies Programme" around teaching kindness, self-awareness, friendship, empathy and self-expression, using the Buddy Bench as a visual tool.
The children explore the clues other children give away on the outside about how they feel on the inside. We appoint all the children in the class the job of “noticing” and responding with kindness.
This Kindness Buddies programme highlights the importance of friendship in our lives, friendships give meaning to our lives and make us feel like we belong. Feeling like we belong improves our children’s mental health. Friends are central to our happiness and well being and we all need kindness to grow.
This programme is taught by primary school teachers who have taken the "Children's Mental Health" course, where they gain the skills to deliver the programme themselves in their classroom.
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 programme is less about using the bench as a way of reaching out and more like a symbol of friendship and kindness.
We place the social responsibility upon older 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.
Through supporting core competencies of empathy and communication, and promoting a child-led culture, we are empowering a generation of children to create a world where is ok, normal, natural, easy and fun, to express yourself.
Through the use of interactive downloadable resources, creative activities and a physical Buddy Bench, this fully interactive programme allows each child to play their part and have their voice.
We believe in strengthening communities by educating primary school students on positive mental well-being with evidence-led lessons on topics like kindness, resilience, friendship, independent thinking, being unique and emotional intelligence.
We have partnered with Men’s Sheds to make the physical Buddy Benches for their local schools. This brings communities a little closer together and the men have enjoyed making some many Buddy Benches for their local children. The bench is more than a visual tool, it plays a central and on-going role as the programme is adopted into daily life by the students.
We have hundreds of child and teacher friendly guided learning pathways and lesson plans in both printed out and downloadable PDF format.
We are proud to have worked closely with the team at NUI Maynooth on a study part funded by the Irish Research Council to evaluate the Buddy Bench Ireland programme.
This research was carried out by Penny Quinn (a Research Assistant in the Centre for Mental Health and Community Research (www.cmhcr.eu), Maynooth University Department of Psychology) and supervised by Professor Sinéad McGilloway (Director of Centre for Mental Health and Community Research, Maynooth University Department of Psychology).
While final publishing of the report was delayed due to covid-19, preliminary findings for the research include:
- Overall, almost 96% (n=112) of the sample responded positively to having a Buddy Bench in their school, with half (n=60) selecting the ‘liking it a lot’ category and 45% selecting the ‘liking it a little’ category. Over 90% of the children felt that there should be a Buddy Bench in every school.
- All of the children drew and named their own emoji to depict how they felt about having a Buddy Bench in their school; over two-thirds used the word ‘happy’ to describe their emoji.
- When asked how they would respond to seeing a child whom they did not know sitting on the Buddy Bench, almost half of the children said that they would ‘talk to the child, but not sit on the Buddy Bench’ whilst 43% said that they would ‘sit on the Buddy Bench and talk to the child’.
Ardee Co. Louth
"It is a lovely idea that encourages inclusion and empathy, ensuring that more children can express and communicate their emotions. The psychotherapist was so lovely and open and communicated the ideas very well. I would highly recommend the Buddy Bench programme because of its potential to help develop, not just an inclusive school environment but its potential to grow a more inclusive society.
St. Mary's NS
“A very informative, age- appropriate presentation. In a classroom of 29 children, with 20 of those being boys, Michelle had the children engaged and eating out of the palm of her hand. Not an easy task!!"
"I thought the programme was super, very child friendly and easy to follow. It has sparked a lot of conversation among the children. They love their Buddy Bench!"
"It is a physical tool and a daily reminder to all members of a school how important it is to take time to notice others feelings and to give a helping hand to those how need it. Fantastic presentation delivering a clear concise message. Thank you so much.
St. Brendans NS
Hugginstown Co. Kilkenny
"I think the whole area of mental health is so important and the buddy bench programme is a valuable aid to schools."
St Canice's N.S
"It is important that children can use buddy bench to look for help/friendship. It is a stepping stone to learn coping mechanisms in life. it is also good for others to be aware that children need help/friendship and hold out a helping hand".