As we move forward into an increasingly changing world with ever developing technologies, the importance of our children’s mental health and their ability to cope and flourish in a fast-paced world has never been more important.
The Britannica research publication cites: “A child’s well-being is influenced by a variety of protective and risk factors. Fostering psychological and emotional fitness is an important part of mental health. Children with stable mental health are able to develop emotionally and cognitively, form effective social relationships with others, and cope with problems.”
A child with good mental health is, therefore, seen reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.
It is when children/young adults are unable to cope with their problems that behavioural issues and poor mental health occurs.
It is vital that everyone who plays a role in a child’s life values understands the importance of good mental health.
The World Health Organisation states that 20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders including: addictions, eating disorders, mood and sleep disorders.
As parents and educators, it is important that all those involved in a child’s life – parents, educators and guardians – work together to help all children achieve good mental health.
School has a major impact on all children’s lives. Indeed, it is where they spend up to, and sometimes more than, eight hours a day.
All outstanding schools will have in place policies and guidelines for behaviour and student expectations. They will also have in place the PHSCE (Personal Health, Social and Citizenship Education ) educational programme. The aim of this programme is to give insight into communication skills, how to treat one another with respect. It places a value on creating a safe environment wherein the students can learn life skills in a safe space.
For younger children in Pre-Schools and Primary Schools, this normally takes place in circle time and is part of a teacher’s day-to-day teaching. For older students, it can be more formal and take place in specific lessons such as tutor time. Such lessons and the expertise of teachers help to develop good mental wellbeing and, at the same time, noting if a child exhibits any concerns. These would, of course, then be discussed with parents and appropriate action taken.
At home, we can also work to improve our children’s wellbeing, irrespective of their age, and simultaneously improve our own.
- Mindfulness – there are so many exercises and examples available via the internet to follow, from simple breathing techniques to deep relaxation exercises. All can be done as a family. Although research is still new on this subject, psychologists have already proven that, in children and adults alike, regular mindfulness activities improve calmness, sleep, attention and reduce stress.
- Exercise – one of the essential elements of a healthy and happy life. Psychologists have proven that regular exercise improves the ability to learn, prevents depression and improves motivation.
- Kindness – taking part in any act of kindness benefits a person’s happiness. Being kind is a vital skill for us all to learn and practice each and every day.
As parents and educators, ensuring that a child has good mental health, and that we are doing all that we can to encourage this, is so very important in the fast-paced world that we inhabit.
Sadly, statistics do show that never before have children felt at times depressed, unable to cope or without the necessary coping tools and strategies to succeed. We must not forget that all brains need to be nurtured, stimulated, guided and nourished, irrespective of age.
Once again, if we as adults model good mental health awareness, our children will have the correct tools to flourish and be happy in this modern, ever-changing world.
By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé