Mental Health and Primary School Children

9.

First and foremost, I would like to give a small introduction to open this article to abolish any misconceptions you may have about this post. No, I do not believe we should ‘quickly label’ or diagnose children who simply appear to be behaving differently; no, I do not think that the fault is on the parents, nor do I think anybody is to ‘blame’. Mental health should not be written off as something you just have to ‘fix’, or that the problem needs to be entirely eradicated. Sometimes it’s as easy as providing children with coping mechanisms.

Certain mind-sets of adults can be very narrow, whether it is intentional, or indeed unintentional. You may have sat and said to yourself ‘what kind of mental health issues can a 7-11 year old really have?” and it’s so easy to forget so many important things. As an adult, mental health can in some cases be linked to situational factors, such as finances, relationships, work etc. I am very aware that in some cases there is no real reason for somebody becoming depressed or having any other mental illnesses that can be caused by a ‘malfunction’ of the brain, and its chemicals and functions. However, I for this particular article would like to consider the causational mental health issues.

I’d like to take you back to why I even came across such a topic, and it all stems from my Primary Education with QTS interview (which you can see below); we were asked to choose a current educational issue to discuss, and this was what I had chosen. A lot of things I subsequently read about showed me just how much I’d forgotten about the impact of certain issues for children at such a precious and impressionable age; a few examples of these are bereavement, divorce, and even moving house or school. We as adults get to a certain point whereby although we can be deeply affected by these same issues, we over time, have accumulated coping mechanisms and know that as devastating as anything is, we must continue and find a away through. Children can struggle with the same issues more than we do as adults because they simply have not learnt yet what to do with their emotions.

I know that the vast majority of parents and guardians pay a lot of attention to their child’s thoughts or feelings, but many people through their own business, grief, or displacement, unfortunately simply assume that their children will be okay or are coping. Just as I sit here and say that children don’t know how to deal with their emotions, they can also be unaware of how to show them at all. Should it be compulsory for you to cry or look sad when you’re upset before somebody notices? Should it be compulsory for you to shout and lash out if you’re angry before somebody notices? And the answers are of course no. Communicating appropriately with children is absolutely essential, and can not only help your child, but can help you to feel closer and more in touch with your child. Learning about the ways to do this, and how to do it effectively, is something that I am most definitely looking forward to at University.

It’s also worth thoroughly recognising that it is not unheard of for children to put on a façade to comfort their parents or guardians. Is your child really desperate to play that game now, or can they just see how stressed or unhappy you are and are trying to comfort you? This would not seem so far fetched when we realise that that’s what we have taught them to do; When they are unhappy or upset we try to do anything we can to distract them and keep them happy. So is it so unusual to consider the idea that maybe they try to do the same for you? And so I think its very important that as teachers in a school, whereby our purpose is to teach and listen to children about their emotions and how they deal with things, to try to improve the mental health of our primary school children.

Statistics have shown that 1 in 5 children have issues surrounding mental health before the age of 11, and this statistic can be found in the following link, which will also give you a lot more information around the topic from a factual point of view: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/02/08/childrens-mental-health-week_n_9185014.html

Not only do I think it’s something very important to focus on, but I also think it’s very worthwhile making the figures known to everybody. It is an issue not greatly spoken about, and that unfortunately seems to go unnoticed to a certain extent. If nothing else, I would love for this article to have raised awareness of the potential of mental health issues for primary school children.

In other news, we’re reaching a time now where there is a slight ‘plateau’ shall we say, in the amount I will be posting. This is solely down to me waiting on more information about my course, hence the posts around general topics, much like this will be. Therefore I’d like to invite you now to comment or contact me personally if there is anything you would be interested in seeing on this blog.

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