So you want to develop mental health with children and young people in your school? Are you looking for ideas or strategies that you can easily put into practice to start making a difference?
Here at Worth-it Positive Education, we understand just how important this is.
Through our years of providing in-house training and free open courses for over 170 UK schools, we have discovered that children and young people can learn certain skills that improve wellbeing and develop positive mental health.
The 8 practical strategies in this article are taken from one of Worth-it’s Training Courses for school staff. Our training is designed to increase capacity to enable schools to develop positive mental health. Our range of training courses and programmes provide a range of resources that can be developed into mental health lessons and pastoral support for both individual or group pupil interventions.
Strategy 1: Developing social skills and the ability to seek assistance from others
When we have good mental health, we can ask for help and feel ok about it. We encourage schools to support children and young people to be able to ask for help while making support that develops positive mental health accessible and available to all.
Try this idea: How do children access support in your school? Do they know who to speak to if they have a problem, or a concern? You can even implement a designated ‘mental health champion or school mental health lead’, so pupils know where to turn to. Raising awareness of where to find help and how to look for help is an important first step in proving support for pupil mental health.
Strategy 2: Developing positive coping strategies
There are many techniques we can develop to support the mental health of children and young people. Positive coping strategies include suggesting a range of calming strategies, distraction techniques and problem-solving skills. This empowers children and young people to develop self-help skills that they can draw upon whenever they need them.
Try this idea: Consider developing a coping strategy checklist for your school. This is a way for children and young people to identify their emotions and manage them. Suggestions could be techniques such as deep breathing, talking to a friend, or slowly counting to ten. Think about how you can include the children in this exercise. How could they add their own coping strategies that are relevant for them?
Strategy 3: Building self-awareness
This includes recognising comfort zones and helping children and young people to understand themselves and what makes them unique and brilliant. It could start with teaching children the importance of positive language and encouraging the use of positive, growth mindset language in your school.
Try this idea: Consider how you use language in your school, how could you use language to help improve mental health? For example, we have developed a ‘positive language ladder’ that demonstrates how we can use words for building resilience and wellbeing. How can you help children turn the words ‘I can’t do it’ into ‘I think I can do it’, or even ‘I’m doing it’?
Schools we have worked with have used this ladder in lessons, as a worksheet or poster to help children and young people recognise the language they are using and identify what they would like to change it to, to move ‘up a step on the ladder’ towards more positive and empowering language.
Strategy 4: Being kind to yourself and others
To build strong mental health, it’s important to develop self-compassion and cultures of kindness. We help children to ask ‘how would you treat a friend?’, which allows them to identify if they are being as kind to themselves as they would be to a friend.
Try this idea: How can you encourage random acts of kindness in your school today? Maybe you could try a ‘pass it on’ week, where everyone does random acts of kindness for each other in turn. Some schools we work with have random acts of kindness days where they encourage children to do several kind acts for the school, peers or the local community.
Strategy 5: Using flexible and accurate thinking skills
Positive mental health includes the ability to understand and manage thoughts and thinking. What we say reflects what we think. This is also known as meta cognition and is recognised as a great skill for learning.
Try this idea: How can you help children to put things in perspective and reframe negatives into positives? Some schools we work with use scaling techniques to help children and young people recognise things might not be as bad as they are thinking, and in doing so reducing catastrophic thinking.
Strategy 6: Noticing the good things in life
An essential skill for wellbeing is the ability to notice the good things in life. These include savouring, gratitude and the ability to notice enjoyable things in their experience.
Try this idea: Helping children to refocus their minds means they can notice when they’re enjoying an experience and are more likely to be mindful and live in the moment. Do a mindfulness exercise where you guide them through the awareness of being fully present in their body. A simple technique to develop savouring is the raisin mindfulness meditation.
Strategy 7: Using problem solving skills
Being empowered to solve your own problems helps develop confidence and wellbeing. Breaking problems down step by step and coming up with their own solutions helps children and young people become resilient, which is essential for positive mental health.
Try this idea: How are you encouraging children and young people to problem solve? Use coaching questions to support children and young people think through problems and come up with their own strategies. It could be a question such as ‘How will you know that you’ve done a good job?’ or ‘How can you learn from this situation to help you next time you face a similar challenge?’
Strategy 8: Being able to set and achieve goals and take action
Being autonomous and working towards motivating goals helps develop wellbeing and positive mental health. In order for children and young people to achieve big goals and take action, you can help them break goals into small action steps, keeping them motivated and supporting them to recognise positive progress.
Try this idea: One way to do this is through taking them through ‘big picture’ planning, which moves them out of overwhelm and into taking things one step at a time. Ask them how they can overcome obstacles, and even ask them to work in groups to help encourage each other’s progress towards a particular outcome.
The 8 practical strategies in this article are taken from one of Worth-it’s Training Courses for school staff. Our training is designed to increase capacity to enable schools to develop positive metal health. Our range of training courses and programmes provide a range of resources that can be developed into mental health lessons and pastoral support for both individual or group pupil interventions.
To find out more about our work supporting school positive mental health and wellbeing why not join our next free discovery workshop for school leaders or mental health leads.
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