Written by Michelle D. Ravenscroft – Educational Consultant
Explore ways to support children’s mental health and wellbeing, by creating a culture of character within your school and taking a strengths-based approach – every day of the year.
We are now in one of the most important weeks in the calendar – Children’s Mental Health Week. This year’s theme is one close to our heart – ‘Growing Together’.
Whilst the understanding of some of the mental health issues our young people face has grown enormously over the past few years, there is still more work to be done to equip them with the skills, language and knowledge to enable them to define and talk openly about what is troubling them.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact at every level of education and students need to discuss their mental health now more than ever. Therefore, it is essential that young people can identify and embody their innate character strengths, to help face whatever life throws at them.
Many resources are designed to help young people understand their feelings and emotions, but it is essential that we give them the gift of knowledge, and the skills to self -identify and develop the character strengths they all have inside them that are ready to flourish. The ability to identify and call upon the character strengths needed in times of trouble is the gift that will keep giving through these important and defining formative years, and into adulthood. Once a child has had chance to experience and develop each character strength, their attitude to self-learning and their understanding of the wider environment becomes more positive, which in turn means they employ different behaviours. This results in more positive outcomes for themselves and others around them.
Working together, education providers can support students to develop and practise character strengths on a daily basis. Embedding character into the school day can be achieved in a variety of ways. Defining strengths, using the language of character and exploring character strengths through wellbeing activities, are good starting points in encouraging and enabling schools to ‘grow together’.
Character strengths – good for individual and whole school wellbeing
To understand character, it is important to nurture key strengths, such as resilience, gratitude, optimism, courage and teamwork, and to speak the language of character with our children from a young age.
Equipping young people with the language to understand themselves and articulate their thoughts and feelings can be empowering and enlightening for the individual, and have a positive impact on the whole school community. Defining character goes some way in helping students understand the range of strengths they can develop and how they can feature positively in their lives.
One way to do this is to explore the benefits of character through the inspirational stories of Amazing People in history, as it instantly creates a dialogue between students and teachers that can support mental health and wellbeing. For example, Frida Kahlo was bed-ridden following a traffic accident that damaged her spine. Her resilience and creativity allowed her to begin to paint and find herself. She goes on to be Mexico’s foremost iconic artist. Thomas Edison had hearing problems and was seen as disruptive at school. His mother taught him at home and encouraged his curiosity and perseverance. He became America’s best-known inventor. He said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Students can begin to empathise and identify with these Amazing People and learn how character strengths played a positive, and sometimes critical, role in their lives. Featuring a diverse, interactive library of stories, there are more than enough to provide a focus for every week of the school year. Supportive activities offer the opportunity for students to explore and expand upon the key strengths and learning points and develop an understanding of how character can have a positive impact on their own lives.
Encouraging a positive mindset
Embedding character education into the classroom routine can be beneficial for the social and emotional development of students. Allowing time for student wellbeing should be a priority and adopting good habits to support this, such as creating a wellbeing timetable or taking learning outdoors, can enable individuals to thrive, in turn impacting positively on the school community.
Supporting students’ wellbeing and encouraging a positive attitude and outlook on life can help students of all ages to overcome challenges and reach their potential. This can be achieved through practical activities that encourage good lifestyle choices. Click here to download our free CMHW Planner to try out some of these activities with your students.
Wellbeing Workouts from Amazing People Schools
Fun, daily activities that focus on developing and practising character strengths can support student wellbeing. Gratitude is a positive strength thatcan be nurtured and practised on a daily basis through our Wellbeing Workout activities. These include reflective tasks, such as encouraging students to create a one-page profile about someone who has helped them. Finding reasons to be grateful helps develop a positive outlook, and reminds students that actively thanking people, verbally or in writing, can support their own ability to feel happier.
Creating an individual or class Wellbeing Workout planner can be a great way for students to think about supporting their own wellbeing. Younger students can choose activities from the Wellbeing Workout sheets, whilst older students may want to consult the Character Strengths Definitions Chart and Character and Wellbeing Chart, before devising their own Wellbeing Workout planner.
Taking character and wellbeing outside
Fresh air, exercise and outdoor play help to support mental and physical wellbeing and are particularly beneficial during times of stress and anxiety. Exciting outdoor activities can help students to break out of their classroom-based comfort zone. Taking part in activities that build trust or that require multiple attempts to achieve a goal can build their resilience, courage and self-confidence. Teachers can support students through encouragement during challenging learning opportunities which can help prevent students from feeling overwhelmed.
Collaborative tasks, such as problem-solving, offer opportunities to develop and practise adaptability and teamwork. Den-building or designing and constructing an obstacle course can encourage students to work together to achieve a common goal and offers the chance for them to deal with feelings of failure or success. Activities could include learning a new sport, or daily tasks such as setting a time challenge or a healthy lifestyle goal. These can also build optimism which leads to better physical and mental health – it can even help you recover from illness quicker!
Character strength – good for all of us
Happy, confident, empowered individuals, achieved through the development of their character strengths, make for a positive, proactive student body. This approach can only be impactful if the students are supported by a nurturing, safe and empathetic environment that prioritises children’s mental health and wellbeing. ‘Growing Together’ should be a daily consideration, and Amazing People Schools’ resources, such as Amazing People stories and Wellbeing Workouts, enable students and teachers to explore, develop and practise important character strengths in fun and inspirational ways.
Embedding character education on a daily basis to support children’s mental health and wellbeing, will provide students with the language and knowledge to discuss and develop their own strengths. Amazing People Schools is here to help your school embed character education during Children’s Mental Health Week and beyond. Did you know that you can get free access to all our wonderful stories and resources for your school? Contact us for a free trial – our team are ready to show you just how amazing Amazing People Schools really is.