As teachers and education professionals, we have a key role in ensuring a safe and positive school environment. This includes ensuring the children who attend our schools feel comfortable and confident enough to recognise and discuss their mental health.
Here are our top tips for how to support a child’s mental health in your primary school.
Incorporating the outdoors into the curriculum
Studies have shown that exposure to nature, outdoor play and having time to enjoy the outdoors all contribute to improving a child’s mental health. This can include planned “walkabouts” to the local park, scavenger hunts and bug exploration.
Encouraging socialising and creativity
Planning time to focus on non-curriculum activities and tasks is a great way of encouraging communication amongst your pupils and create a more relaxed feeling towards teaching staff. Including tasks and activities with the focus on building trust and familiarity can increase the likelihood of a child feeling comfortable about talking about feelings that are impacting on their mood and progress.
Likewise, including lessons and tasks that encourage creativity, such as art and music, can help children who struggle to articulate their feelings, how to speak about them in different ways.
Themed weeks and days
From “Wellness weeks” to Mental Health Awareness Days, there are lots of nationally recognised opportunities to bring mental health and related discussions to the forefront of school conversations. No matter what age group your pupils are, themed weeks and days can encourage important conversations and empower the young people in our schools.
Understanding mental health
There are lots of courses and training sessions available at Essex County Council, and through your school, to help teachers and school support staff, feel confident in managing children’s mental health. Creating a safe and positive school environment is paramount to supporting a child’s mental health, and this is only possible if all school staff take a proactive approach in ensuring they have the skills and understanding to handle such topics.
Create a culture of acceptance
It is so important to have an “open door” policy with your pupils, so that they know they are safe to talk to you about matters that may be affecting their mental health. By promoting a culture that supports, recognises and explores mental health and wellbeing, you will find that pupils attending your school will automatically be better equipped at navigating the often confusing and challenging matters related to mental health.
Don’t forget about you.
As teaching staff, we often remember to place an importance on our pupil’s mental health, but it is important to remember the importance of looking after our own.
There is a wealth of fantastic information, resources and guidance on how to manage the mental health of your pupils, as well as your own.
Some fantastic resources include: