The Importance Of Emotional Wellbeing

As part of One Goals’s Be a Star framework, we are looking at each 7 wellbeing challenges in more depth. This blog is about emotions.

One in ten children are affected by mental health issues in their childhood. In this day and age, mental health issues are being diagnosed frequently and symptoms are recognised faster. Mental health is an important part of a child’s wellbeing and shouldn’t ever be dismissed. However, frighteningly, out of the children and young people who experience a mental illness, 70% have not had appropriate interventions at an early enough age.

There are a range of common mental health problems that children experience:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)

It is common and somewhat normal for young children to develop worries and fears – this also happens to adults. However, constantly worrying and fearing to the point where it is interfering with school, home and social life, could be a sign that a child is suffering from an anxiety disorder. There are different forms of anxiety disorders in children such as separation anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, general anxiety and panic disorder. Anxiety in children does not always present itself as a worry or a fear, but instead in the form of irritability and anger. Symptoms include restlessness, fatigue, trouble sleeping and headaches.

 

Tips to help children in the classroom who are experiencing anxiety:

  • Validate their feelings. As a teacher, or even a parent, you are not going to help your child by dismissing their feelings as ‘silly’. Studies have shown that the more empathy a teacher or parent show towards a child, the more it calms down the child’s anxiety and encourages them to open up more in the future.
  • It is important the children know what each feeling and emotion they or a classmate experiences. Draw a number of faces, each with a different expression and ask the children what they all mean? Helping them decipher what is behind each face also helps them feel more in control of their own emotions because they are able to recognise what the feeling means.
  • Teaching children the importance of relaxation is a valuable tool for children suffering from anxiety. Perhaps you can choose a keyword that you use sporadically in the classroom and when that word is said, all the children have to put down what they are doing, close their eyes and listen to your relaxation cues.

Just like anxious thoughts, it can also be normal for children to feel down, low or have ‘the blues’. Perhaps a child has had a bad day, just like an adult and are having negative thoughts. It is important the children occasionally go through these emotions in their childhood so they learn how to cope and deal with them. But if your child has been feeling down for a while, has lost interest in their day-to-day activities and their thoughts are constantly negative, there is a chance that child is suffering from depression. It is important to seek early professional intervention if you suspect your child is depressed, as treating this kind of disorder when the child is younger is ideal. Leaving it too long can affect the way your child grows and learns.

 

Tips to help children in the classroom who are experiencing depression:

  • Give them positive feedback and reinforcement. While this is something a teacher should do with all children, a child with negative thoughts needs this even more. It can be helpful as often these children tend not to pay as much attention to positive thoughts and it can affect their self image and confidence.
  • Encourage participating. Children with depressive feelings tend to become reclusive as their levels of energy are lower. If a child engages in a physical activity, praise should be given as it rewards them for their efforts.
  • Speak up about positive experiences. If something is happening in the classroom that is making the children laugh or smile, comment on it. For example, “Sophie made a funny joke. I like jokes, they make me laugh”. Or, “That book had a happy ending, it made me feel good”.

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can affect any child who has gone through a traumatic event in their life. The trigger event can range from being abused to going through a car crash. A lot of PTSD disorders are triggered from neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse. In terms of whether a child will develop PTSD depends on how severe the trauma was, how the child’s parents react to the trauma and how close or far away the child is from the trauma. There are many symptoms a child can display – behavioural, physical, cognitive and psychosocial – that can indicate a child may be suffering from PTSD. If a child is behaving recklessly, has angry outbursts, is irritable, having trouble sleeping, altered cognitive functioning, nightmares, bedwetting, guilt and/or worry, there is a chance they have mild or perhaps even severe PTSD.

 

Tips to help children in the classroom who are experiencing PTSD:

  • Be aware of triggers. If a child in your class is suffering from PTSD, certain activities may trigger anxiety or re-lived trauma. As a teacher, it is important to be aware of these triggers so you can safeguard the child if possible.
  • Don’t judge. By creating a non-judgmental and safe space, a child will feel they can open up and discuss issues or past traumas – but only if they want to.
  • If you practice mindfulness with your class, adapt your practice if you have children with PTSD in your class. Mindfulness can bring up painful and scary emotions for those children. Let the children know they do not have to close their eyes, they can also keep their eyes open, focusing on one spot in the room. Tell the class that if they don’t want to focus on how their body is feelings, they can also focus on an object like a pencil – how it feels, what it looks like etc.

Attention deficit disorder (ADHD) is a disorder common in young children that affects their ability to pay attention. They usually have a hard time focusing on a task, are constantly moving due to hyperactivity and may also make impulsive decisions. Not all children with ADHD will display all of these behaviours, sometimes it is only one or a combination of two. In younger children, the most common symptom of ADHD is hyperactivity. This disorder usually develops in children between the ages of 3 and 6 years old.

 

Tips to help children in the classroom who are suffering from ADHD:

  • Be clear and consistent. As a teacher, it is important that you always make rules very clear to children with ADHD, as well as stay consistent with those rules.
  • Help them remember things. Make sure a child in your class always writes down their assignments and homework so they don’t forget. If you can, supply them with a special notebook organiser so they can get into the habit of writing this down in that book every day.
  • Cater to their learning needs. For children with ADHD, a written exam or test can be a struggle for them as it requires a long period of sitting and thinking. A child with ADHD usually does better on an oral exam or quiz or even filling in blanks. Where possible, try and implement this for your student.

There are many different types of mental health issues children can have and as a teacher, the more you educate yourself about each one, the more you can help your class on a whole. For more tips and strategies on how to deal with kids misbehaving in the classroom, download our free Ebook which will address all wellbeing challenges in the Be a Star program.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/c/children-and-young-people
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/symptoms.html
  3. http://understandinganxiety.wayahead.org.au/education/strategies-to-support-anxious-children-in-the-classroom/
  4. http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/depression_children.html
  5. https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/mental-health-difficulties/depression/depression-suggestions-teaching-staff
  6. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/family/ptsd-children-adolescents.asp
  7. http://www.ascentchs.com/mental-health/ptsd/symptoms-signs-effects/
  8. http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip28.html
  9. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_silent_epidemic_in_our_classrooms
  10. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/lesson-teachers-addressing-eating-disorder-bully
  11. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
  12. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
  13. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/teaching-students-with-adhd-attention-deficit-disorder.htm

 

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