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Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 15:47 GMT


Stress therapy for five-year-olds

The pressures on families can lead to stress in children

Stressed-out primary schoolchildren are being offered therapy and counselling.

A project run by the University of Liverpool is providing stress-therapy units for two Merseyside primary schools, which offer intensive six weeks courses in tackling anxiety among children aged between five and eleven.

Despite fears that the anti-stress programme would be seen by Liverpudlians as "airy-fairy or too esoteric", research fellow Bob Spalding, said that parents had been overwhelmingly positive about its impact.

[ image: What happens at home shapes children's behaviour at school]
What happens at home shapes children's behaviour at school
The Cheiron Project, part of the university's education department, attempts to provide early intervention for children showing signs of stress - which might be identified by children's behaviour or sudden loss of confidence.

Inner-city families face many pressures and these have an impact on children's lives, says Mr Spalding. Although adults might not consider young children to be sufferers from stress, "you don't have to look hard to find it", he says.

Teachers at Millwood School and Stocktonwood Infant School, both in Speke, can make referrals to the unit for stress therapy for any pupils they feel would benefit. About 40 pupils are expected to attend sessions in the course of the year.

Pupils and their families attend the unit - based in the schools' premises - three times a week, with therapy, including hand massage, counselling, psychotherapy and aromatherapy, provided in a setting that uses light and music to create a relaxing atmosphere.

The intention of the programme, says Bob Spalding, is to achieve change rapidly. "This is not a laid-back therapy, it is very focused in its attempts to tackle the problems facing children."

"Parents are saying that their children are calmer after the therapy and they're more able to talk about their problems."

"What parents most appreciate is that problems can be dealt with on the spot, without having to make appointments outside the school. This way we can help prevent the chances of behavioural problems developing later."

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