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Roel Wilbers

  • - Coaching
  • - Training
  • - Physio

Pilot lessons mental health at the BMS

At the BMS we started with lessons about mental health. The ‘bovenbouw’ class of Ferti is where the pilot began in March 2024. On this page I would like to give you some more information about it.

The idea for the program started because of the trend that teenagers and kids suffer more and earlier of mental restlessness and problems. The data show that stress related problems amongst students are higher than anywhere in the working population and that less physical exercise, higher sugar intake and mainly the use of screens and social media, has a lot of influence on their mental wellbeing and health.

The earlier in life the kids learn tools to deal with these things, the better they can cope with the challenges of modern society. Challenges we as adults often are struggling with as well and where the knowledge and solutions on how to deal with them are often lacking. The emphasis is mainly on interventions when problems are already present, although there are effective methods and tools to make yourself mentally stronger and more resiliant.

Because this program is fairly new, we like to take you a bit more through the content.

The guest teacher

I can imagine that you like to know who takes care of these lessons and maybe you know me from ‘het schoolplein’. Here I’d like to shortly introduce myself. My name is Roel and I am the father of Jess, who is in group 3 with Lian and Martine and I work as a physiotherapist and trainer. Already for many years I provide training to groups of adults in and outside of companies in subjects like mental health, dealing with stress, improving your relationship with your smartphone and social media and increasing the mental productivity. Next to that, I have a company in meditation training and am I a certified breathcoach in multiple disciplines.

Since 2017 I also give workshops at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and Universiteit van Amsterdam and dove into the problems among teenagers. There, especially as a parent of a young child, I was shocked about what I found out. From there on I specifically developed trainings to help students. Also before this stage in life, more and more kids get into trouble mentally and I realised that people hardly ever receive any knowledge and tools to help them to regulate themselves while growing up. If every kid would learn this in primary school, it could help to prevent a lot of problems.

When I presented this plan to the BMS, they straight away were very enthusiastic about it and we started this pilot. To be completely transparent: just like most workshops I give to students and kids, I do this fully voluntarily so no budget has to be reserved within the BMS.

The approach

In the lessons subjects such as stress and restlessness are explained and the focus is mainly about how it functions mentally and emotionally and how you can help yourself when you experience for example restless. In a simple and accessible way kids get knowledge and tools about self-regulation, whereby the focus is not on the problem but on prevention and becoming and staying mentally fit and resiliant.

In each lesson of around 45 minutes, we cover a specific topic and the kids learn in an interactive way about how their body and mind works and how they can work with it, so they are not at mercy of things like stress and overstimulation, but learn how to gain control over what happens inside of them. They receive more knowledge and understanding and learn tools like mindfulness exercises to get in touch with the inner world as well as simple breathing exercises to change their state.

Questions and feedback are welcome

If there are any questions about the program, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at roel@roelwilbers.nl.

Of course I am, especially in this pilot phase, very interested in feedback on how the kids experience these classes and what can be improved.

The lessons

There is a class every other week and below you will find more infomation about the content. Often there are tools and exercises that I taught the kids and I will share them here so if you like you can do them at home with your kid or offer it to them when they need it. And maybe if benefits you too 🙂

Lesson 1: Becoming calm

This lesson is all about why it is a quality being calm. With examples of like of athletes, they learn that being mentally calm increases performance at and outside of school, but also makes yourself feel better and benefits social interaction. We dive deeper into that peace and balance always comes from within and how to find ‘the silent place’ inside yourself.

For this lesson I recorded an exercise for the kids that aligns with what they learned and that they can do by themselves or together with you when they feel restless. It is only available in Dutch unfortunately. It is also ideal to do before going to sleep, or to just do on a regular basis because the more often they connect with that, the easier and faster they can do that when they need it.

Lesson 2: Discovering our inner world

This class is about exploring our inner world. What do we encounter there? How does it work inside our minds?

Together we brainstormd about what is a thought, what is a feeling and what is an emotion. Where they are in the body, how long they last and why we actually have them. And what are the differences between feelings and emotions.

This lesson lays the groundwork for the next one, where we dive into how to better understand our inner world and better being able to manage it.

Lesson 3: Recap

After a short break due to the new schedule now Ferti had to stop working, we started the lessons again. Today was about refreshing the memory where we ended and we practised the exercise to find the silent spot inside of yourself again.

Also I taught them a breathing exercise that they can do when they feel restless. This one is as follows:

keep the hand with straight fingers in front of you and place the index finger of the other hand against the wrist at the side of the thumb. Now gently breath in while moving the finger to the top of the thumb, and exhale with the finger moving downwards again along the thumb to the space with the index fiinger. From there inhale again moving the finger up alongside the index finger and when you reacht the top, exhale and move the finger downwards agaian. And so on.

Make sure that this happens at a steady pace and it is not a race, that the breathing volume is normal (so no maximum in- or axhale) and that the breathing is through the nose, what is always important and especially when you want to calm down through breathing. You can do this exercise at home as well in you find your child is restless and the five calm breaths through the nose will quickly bring more calm and peace.

Lesson 4: The importance of mental peace before going to sleep and during sports

This lesson I went deeper into the importance of calming yourself down and I evaluated with them how to do that and evaluated if the exercises we did (the breathing with the hand and finding the silent place inside yourself) are being used and useful. No obligation of course, and it was great to see that some of them used them frequently, for example before going to sleep and also during sports.

Also I asked them if they would like me to go into a certain topic and it seemed that a lot of the kids have troubel falling asleep because ‘it is too busy inside of the head’. I probably will spend a lesson on that somewhere. If you as a parent have a question or proposal about this or feedback, please let me know at roel@roelwilbers.nl.

We repeated the exercises and I explained more about ‘the silent place inside of yourself’. If your child has trouble sleeping, then you can do the breathing exercise with the hand with them (they will love to teach it to you) or put on the audio that I added here in lesson 1.