Teaching about Mental Health for Children

Many schools across the UK have been taking part in Children’s Mental Health Week (4th-10th February 2019), established by the mental health charity Place 2 Be. The aim is to encourage children and young people into expressing and understanding their own mental health, making it easier to improve their well being and help recognise the symptoms of mental illness in themselves or someone they know. For many years the issues concerning mental health have been taboo subjects and swept under the carpet, but with a rising concern of the mental well being of children, this must be addressed. According to a study conducted by Papyrus, the biggest cause of death in young people (under 35 years) is suicide with mental illness becoming increasingly apparent in more young people and teenagers.

Teaching Social and Emotional Skills in School

Teaching children social and emotional skills can help them understand and cope with any negative feelings they may be harbouring. Having a bad day or feeling stressed is completely normal, but when students begin to struggle with their mental well being it’s essential for them to know how to manage their thoughts and feelings, and find out how, where, or who they can turn to for help. For Children’s Mental Health Week many schools across the UK have been creative in their lesson plans and have been celebrating the event across social media. From meditation to massage training, there are hundreds of ways to join in the activities in your classroom.

Educating students on various relaxation methods is a great starting point for helping children control their feelings and express their emotions. Encouraging them to take care of their health, both physically and mentally, will create healthy patterns throughout their childhood that they can take into their adult futures. From what food they eat, reasons to stay active and social, coping with down days, and getting enough sleep are all significant factor for children to learn.

Ways to Celebrate Children’s Mental Health Week

There are many classroom friendly activities you can try out to promote a positive mental well being, see below for various lesson plans that you can partake in with your students:

  •  Get your students to write down their names 5 times on a pieces of scrap paper and distribute them evenly out to their classmates. Once your students have 5 names each ask them to write out a compliment or a happy memory they have of this person. When your students read the nice things their classmates have to say about them it can help with self esteem and confidence.
  • Practice mindfulness through meditation. Teaching students to take time out through healthy breathing exercises can help them relax quicker and increase concentration.
  • Reading and being read to can help reduce anxiety and stress levels, choose a book that all the class will enjoy and take it in turns to read as a group and individually.
  • During outdoor play (or indoor play depending on how much you want to annoy next door) ask your students to write down their worries or fears on a piece of paper and give them a funny name. Expressing your worries and woes is the first step to understanding why you might be feeling low. Finish this off by shouting out the names of the worries, ‘Boaty McBoatFace’ may be a popular occurrence just as a forewarning. Making noise and shouting out loud can help get rid of unwanted and frustrated energies and can help students feel energised and positive after this activity. It also makes the worry less scary when you can put a name to it and gives the children a chance to be creative.
  • For a great arts and crafts acitivity you can also have a good at making your own worry dolls. Worry dolls are originally from Guatemala where children can tell their dolls what they are worrying about and then pop them under their pillows before bed. The legend is that the dolls gift the children with wisdom and guidance to help eliminate their worries. 
Image result for worry dolls
Source: SnapGuide

There are so many more ideas and activities to choose from to help young people manage and understand their emotions, we’d love to hear your tips and ideas in the comments section below! If you’re still struggling for choice, visit out TeacherBoards Pinterest page for many more well being and mental health ideas for students.

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