World Mental Health Day: Bring awareness into your classroom

My previous post on teacher well-being sparked some great conversations on social media and the important issue of mental health does not just affect adults. There are undeniable pressures on children and teenagers to look, be, and act a certain way. They spend too much time questioning their academic abilities, their appearance and their talents to really accept who they are and what they are capable of. This low level of confidence and self-assurance is something that needs to be addressed more in schools. In primary school, I have included a variety of activities into my lessons to embrace and celebrate differences, to reflect on actions and choices, and to really focus on the importance of sharing how you feel and not being afraid of your emotions. Below are some of these ideas you may wish you incorporate into your class time.

Awareness activities to support children with mental health in primary school and secondary school.

Mindfulness activities for children

Go on a nature walk, put on relaxing music, and do some mindfulness colouring. Mindlessness has been a buzz word for a while now and it's more than just colouring in time. It's time for children to relax, reflect, and reset. You can make it a sensory experience - what can you hear, smell, taste?

Meditation in the classroom

Put on some soothing music and teach them to focus on breathing. You might also want to go outside and just listen to your surroundings.  There are guided meditations where your class can close their eyes or rest their heads on the table and listen to your story as you guide them through a scenario. I've recently heard about tapping as a holistic approach to dealing with stress and anxiety- something I want to look further into as it could benefit many children.

Classroom PSHE activities

Circle Time is a great way to connect with your class and help them bond as a cohort. It opens up a way of communication they may have previously struggled with. My favourite activity involves giving each other compliments:  'I like you because.. 'You're a good friend because' etc.

I've also found telling them a story using our class panda as the main character and putting him in situations they may have encountered, eg 'As you all know, Paul used to go to Panda school and enjoyed working with his friend Jenny in class...' I'll explain a problem and we have a class discussion on what should Paul have done to make things better and what would have made it worse. In the end, I tell them what Paul did (usually the right thing), and how everything worked out well. We then discuss how we can make good choices / be a good friend etc.

School Chatter Box

You could have one in your class or a school one where a member of staff is in charge of it. A Chatter Box is a locked box with a hole to put notes in, children can write their name and class on the paper and then when the member of staff next looks in it, they can go to the child and see what is on their mind and if they want help with anything.

Children need to be aware that help is out there no matter their age, nor the problems they face. School should be a safe place where children can feel comfortable enough to open up and feel supported.

Check out my TES shop for great lesson plans, ActivInspire flip charts, and worksheets.

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