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Top tips for pupil wellbeing

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By Fiona Pienaar

An estimated three children in every classroom experience a diagnosable mental health problem, and there is growing recognition supporting pupils’ emotional health can have a beneficial impact on attitudes to learning. Place2Be’s Director of Clinical Services, Dr Fiona Pienaar discusses how teachers can play an active role in supporting children’s wellbeing, alongside their academic progress.

Place2Be Dr Fiona Pienaar

As the leading provider of school-based children’s mental health services, we understand that teachers are juggling a lot and that a busy workload can sometimes feel overwhelming. Every class is different, but there are lots of opportunities for teachers to promote positive wellbeing, and help children to build their resilience as they grow up.

Here are a couple of examples:

1. Role modelling – It can be useful to think about your own behaviour and how you deal with emotions such as anger and frustration, especially in front of your pupils, as this can influence how they behave and cope themselves.

2. Coping strategies – Your pupils may already have a wide variety of strategies for coping when they feel overwhelmed by emotions – from listening to music, to talking to a friend or family member – but it can be helpful to discuss and put a name to these. This can help to give the children confidence, whilst also allowing them to learn other ways of managing their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. You could also help the children think about who is there for them to speak to in school if they have something on their mind – including yourself.

3. ‘Worry box’ or ‘Worry tree’ – Activities or tools that provide an open and comfortable space for children to come forward and share what is worrying them and how they are feeling can be helpful. A ‘worry box’ or ‘worry tree’ invites children to write out their feelings and place them in a box or on the tree. This will not only help you to understand how the pupils in your classroom are feeling and what might be worrying them, but also helps the children become more emotionally aware and articulate.

4. ‘Down time’ – During the school day, it may be possible to introduce breaks and opportunities for play and creativity. Activities such as art and role play can be powerful in helping children to express themselves. You could also use drama or storytelling to explore issues, for instance by asking the class to discuss “How does this character feel?” “What could they be thinking about?”

5. Support networks – It is important that as teachers, you look after your emotional and mental wellbeing. Create space in your life each day to relax, to think, to reflect. By becoming more aware of your physical, emotional and mental state, you will increase your awareness and be able to manage your thoughts, emotions and behaviour more effectively. Make sure that you have a personal support system. Identify who amongst your colleagues, friends and family you can turn to for support as well as knowing where to seek more formal lines of support both within and outside of school. Everybody needs a support system.

If you are particularly concerned with the wellbeing of any of the pupils in your class, discuss the situation with the school Child Protection Officer.

For further information about Place2Be, visit: www.place2be.org.uk

Reviews

  1. Jo Crew
    on 30 August 2016

    Undiagnosed

    We are struggling with a 14yr old daughter with a mental health issue but as yet are undiagnosed (5 yrs with Camhs, East Bristol) The theory is that she is not diagnosable because she did not pass her assessment back in 2010, but it is acknowledge that she has anxiety and panic disorder so she was in therapy for this (and this only) She also has OCD, SPD and Pica. I would say there were more than 1 in 3 undiagnosed children in any given class (secondary school) and many who haven’t even got to the Camhs stage yet. I would be delighted to tell you the whole story of Moya and her school experience, alas it is probably too long for this section. One thing I can tell you is that never at any point in her school day (and there have been nearly 400 of them) has she had a support system, a place to go or a person to go to. This cannot be right I hear you say? The teachers I have encountered do not have the time to consistently follow up on any child’s well being unless that child spends time out of school or does something (behaviour) to compromise someone else’s safety. 3 weeks ago Moya ended up in hospital because she had eaten sponge (foam sponge: Pica) and although we had been in a meeting about this with the school, the sponge we found had come from school, so in my eyes how are teachers suppose to follow my daughter around in case she finds sponge to eat (it is in chairs and part of mats) the staff are already awash with other children’s problems, emotional or otherwise. In my eyes and 9 yrs experience in this situation, I feel this is the tip of the iceberg and very worrying for the young that go through this. Jo Crew, Bristol.

    2out of 5

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