Social, Emotional, and Mental Health education. It’s not something that’s often discussed, but, in a world where children can communicate cross-globally using small rectangles of glass and have access to a vast web of unfiltered information, the need for schools to talk about SEMH is greater than ever.
We need to start encouraging children and young people to start thinking about serious issues that may – or will – affect them in later life. Bereavement, mental health issues, drugs and alcohol, self-esteem… these are difficult topics to broach, but if we don’t open a dialogue with young people, they can’t be expected to consider their impact.
With modern-day issues such as workplace stress and the changing landscape of social interactions, we need modern-day education that addresses them. Children need to be educated on life outside of the classroom; they need Social, Emotional, and Mental Health education.
The DfE has published excellent departmental advice directed towards supporting children who have, or are at risk of developing, a mental health disorder, and it’s well worth reading. However, while this is undoubtedly useful, it doesn’t fully address the issue at hand. All people – and, therefore, all children – are at risk of developing a mental health disorder at some point in their life. SEMH education has to be made available to all.
We’ve put together five ideas that teachers and schools can act on now to help students learn about SEMH issues:
Thought for the Day
If you have an assembly every day, or some other way of communicating with students, such as information screens or school planners, consider giving your students something to think about. These could be linked to current events, such as Holocaust Memorial Day, or they could take the form of short philosophical questions.
It’s easy to integrate these thoughts into school life, and the benefits are clear: students are encouraged to practice self-reflection.
When we’re at a young age, it can sometimes be difficult to process and understand emotions. To counteract this, younger students could be encouraged to practise emotional literacy.
You could hand out print-outs of facial expressions and ask them to match them with emotions. Abstract tasks, such as pairing each colour with a feeling, are also useful, as they give cultural context to emotions.
Random acts of kindness. They can be small gestures, such as holding the door open for someone, but they can make us feel great. Encourage your students to practise random acts of kindness every day, and praise them for their efforts.
“Seemingly against all the odds, some children exposed to significant risk factors develop into competent, confident and caring adults.” Mental health and behaviour in schools
A good sense of humour, the capacity to reflect, and the ability to recognise your own achievements are all factors that can foster resilience in children. There’s no quick fix for this; great tutors and support networks help to nurture resilient students. Increase parental engagement. Set high expectations, and support your students to achieve them.
One excellent idea outlined in DfE guidance is the introduction of anonymous bullying or praise boxes, which can be used to instigate class discussion.
Don’t Forget Teachers
It’s equally important to consider teacher resilience. Teaching is a difficult and incredibly demanding job, and staff often aren’t given access to the support that they need. Encourage a strong support network in your school; meet with your colleagues outside of work, share stories, and show that you’re there for each other.
We’ve taken these ideas to heart and developed a pack of Primary and Secondary SEMH Page Ideas for your student and teacher planners. These pages are free to view, fully customisable, and are informed by advice from the Department for Education.
With fully customisable school planners, you could include “random acts of kindness” bingo boards, pages to help engage parents, and pages to build teacher resilience and resistance to stress.