As you may be aware, a few weeks ago I attended the IAPS Heads’ Conference where I was fortunate enough to attend talks and seminars on a range of topical subjects, led by some excellent speakers. I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that mental well-being was a topic discussed several times during the course of the conference. It is a well-documented fact that more and more young people are grappling with anxiety-related disorders as well as mental ill health and the associated behaviour disorders.
Ensuring our children feel safe, happy and comfortable in their own skin has always been our number one priority at SVPS and we aim to act fast if we feel any of our pupils need support with this. However, I thought you might be interested to hear about clinical psychologist Dr Nihara Krause’s talk that focused on the seven critical factors needed to impact positively on the mental health of our children.
The first factor relates to curiosity and embedding a culture of curiosity, encouraging children to ask, ‘What if?’ and to use their imagination and to play. We aim to do this throughout the School. This week, a team of teachers has been planning the Curiosity Club day that will take place later this term, when pupils of all ages will have the opportunity to question, explore and use their imagination during an enriching day of workshops.
Factor two is the need for self-regulation; children learn to wait or to ‘be slow’. Dr Krause reminded us that self-regulation is a complex concept, for it is not the same as self-control. Indeed, self-regulation is a psychological concept and one that requires us to ask, ‘How do I change my thoughts and behaviours?’ Nowadays, instant gratification is something we have all come to expect but learning to self-regulate is well worth getting to grips with. It is healthy to have to wait and to not have our desires met immediately. I am sure many of us will be familiar with the similar dilemma, ‘I really want to finish my game but I have to complete my homework.’
Pupils need to develop healthy social skills and this was Dr Krause’s third point. These skills include learning how to interact as well as learning how to negotiate conflict. The truth is, our children’s lives will not be as trouble-free and perfect as we might like them to be. As adults, we know our journey through life will include bumps and learning how to deal with these is just as important for children as it is for adults. Indeed, our children need to know these setbacks are to be expected and they are equipped to bounce back from them.
Dr Krause believes embedding these first three areas in our children before they reach the ages of five years old is fundamental.
The next two factors can be described as, ‘I am’ and ‘I can’. The parents and children who heard James Shone earlier this term would remember that he, also, talked about ‘I am and I can’ in his deeply moving and powerful talks. Much of what he said was reiterated by Dr Krause. ‘I am’ refers to learning about yourself. This includes the formation of self-concept and self-esteem, knowing who you are and how you relate to others. ‘I can’ is to do with learning and, as Dr Krause put it, ‘Failing Forward’; I cannot do this ‘as yet’. You will be well aware that ‘yet’ is now a key word in the Sutton Valence parlance as we embed a Growth Mindset and Dr Krause felt this was essential in helping children to develop from their mistakes.
Factor six is concerned with helping children to understand their emotions and to develop strategies to deal with them. When we cannot go over it and we cannot go under it, we go ‘through it’!
Finally, the seventh factor is the need to help children to ‘stay real’. Dr Krause spoke passionately about managing children’s expectations for children need to learn how to face what is happening to them.
Dr Krause’s words really chimed with me and with our School ethos and values. I hope you find this summary helpful, too, as we continue to work together to help our children to learn to take risks and bounce back from adversity so that they can rise even higher in the future.
I would like to wish the whole SVPS community a most enjoyable and restful half term break.