Children write with their teacher

Pause Breathe Smile – creating positive change for tamariki

Thursday , 6 October 2022 by Sue Hamilton

Parents say they are worried about their children’s mental health. There is a mind health programme available free to all junior schools.

  • Independent research shows mind health programme Pause Breathe Smile is delivering real results for tamariki
  • Marked improvement in focus, perseverance, helpfulness and self-motivation
  • Marked decline in apprehension, anxiety and pessimism

With 63per cent of New Zealand parents worried about how their children will cope with the pressures of life, it probably comes as no surprise how readily primary and intermediate schools and teachers have taken to the Pause Breathe Smile (PBS) mind health programme, which is fully funded by Southern Cross.

PBS is having a demonstrably positive impact in schools and kura throughout Aotearoa, and since September 2020 has equipped more than 88,000 children in over 320 schools with mindfulness techniques.

Dr Matthew Clark, Chief Medical Officer for Southern Cross Healthcare said, “Our own Healthy Futures research for 2022 has exposed some concerning results, including how so many parents now believe their youngsters are not coping well. This means it’s really important kids have access to some proven tools they can rely on to help build resilience.

“In only two years, the Pause Breathe Smile team has taught thousands of teachers and their students how to de-escalate anxiety and stress, and to better navigate the weirdly uncertain times we’ve all been facing. When you’re pint-sized, problems can seem much bigger, so teaching our tamariki to manage their emotions and reactions in a positive way helps them in so many areas. They enjoy their learning, they stay well, and they can be a calmer, more balanced class and family member. The results we’re seeing in the independent survey from Mindquip speak for themselves,” he added.

Dr Reuben Rusk, founder of Mindquip, has monitored PBS from the outset. “The results suggest it’s generally having a positive impact on tamariki and their teachers. We’ve seen significant improvements in how the teachers who engage in the programme and complete the follow-up surveys describe their students’ wellbeing and behaviour. They describe learners as more focused, considerate, self-motivated, perseverant, supportive, hopeful, interested, and engaged, and less anxious, pessimistic, upset, and withdrawn.

“These teachers are describing improvements in a range of student behaviours and wellbeing, with more described as flourishing and fewer as languishing. In other words, they are reporting that children are better-equipped to tackle life’s challenges, learn, and engage constructively with others. Many other research studies back up these kinds of benefits from mindfulness-based programmes.”

Grant Rix, Co-Founder of PBS, was also pleased to see how the programme he developed with the Mental Health Foundation is making such a difference.

“The result which really stands out for me is the ever-widening gap between positive and negative behaviours. It is great to see Pause Breathe Smile is changing the way children interact with each other and with their teachers. Increased mindfulness is enabling them to defuse negative situations and find better ways to deal with stress. Teachers are telling us they love seeing the way tamariki are actively using the techniques they’ve been taught and what’s more they are taking these home and using them with whānau.”

“I really like this comment from a student teacher from Cobden School in Greymouth who said: “Participating in the Pause Breathe Smile programme was an incredible experience and the mindfulness techniques we learned were truly invaluable.

“As an educator, I loved how easy it was to follow the lesson plans and how I didn't need to be an expert in mindfulness myself to lead the class. For the students, it was a chance for them to focus on connecting with themselves again (as well as others) and it was amazing to see and hear some of the stories they had to share thanks to a safe space being created by this programme. I can't wait to continue using this in the future.”

Read the full Pause Breathe Smile Report 

To find out how to train for free, teachers can head to or email [email protected].


1 Southern Cross Healthy Futures