Children’s mental health and wellbeing has always been an important part of school life. Teachers play a vital role in supporting their pupils’ social and emotional development. Creating a nurturing classroom environment can help children to feel confident, secure, safe and therefore ready to learn.
Here are 5 ideas for ways you can support pupils with their emotional wellbeing within your classroom:
Plan time to talk about feelings and emotions
Children need to be taught about the different emotions, how to recognise them in themselves and others, and strategies to manage their emotions. You could dedicate time each week to read and discuss a book that explores different feelings. Or, you could create an emotions display in your classroom and introduce a new one each week. Spend time talking about what the emotion is, how you might feel, when you might feel it and strategies children can use.
Create spaces for talking and calming
Think about spaces in your school which can be used as a place for children to talk with adults or used as a calming space. You could create a sensory room full of resources such as bubble tubes, sensory walls, soft furnishings, etc. Alternatively, you could create a smaller sensory area within your own classroom using a pop-up tent. For individual children, try setting up calming boxes full of a range of sensory resources or special things from home.
Be available to talk
Make sure that pupils understand they can talk to you when they need to and that you will make time for them. They need to feel valued and supported which will help to build a positive relationship. Children take time to trust adults, so they may start off telling you small things, but value it because they need to build the relationship before they will start to open up fully.
Plan to be proactive rather than reactive
School can be an overwhelming place sometimes for us all, and we all need the opportunity to have some down time during the day. Try to read the emotions of the children in your class and jump in before things get too much for them. If you see a child ‘bubbling’ with their emotions, try to distract them, move them away from the trigger and offer them some time to visit a calming space or use a calming box. Think about the escalation curve, or the 5 point scale, and we want to try and help children to regulate throughout the day so that they never reach their peak!
Listen, understand and support
Even when we try to do everything we can to reduce emotional upset, sometimes things just become too overwhelming. As we know, all behaviour is communication and children, and adults, will use their behaviour to show us what they are feeling when they can’t use their words. Some will stop talking, some will scream and shout, and some will cry. If children become upset, we need to step in and help them to regulate. Offer them somewhere safe and quiet to go, or a distraction from the moment. Offer support by helping them to understand why they have been upset, shine a light on it, and show that we understand and we want to help. Talk to them, explain you know it must be hard, recognise the emotion, and discuss alternatives.
Organise a whole school wellbeing week
With so many different elements contributing to our wellbeing, plan a whole week full of learning focussing on this area. You could include physical activities, meditation, mindfulness, acts of kindness, creative tasks, etc. This can be a great way to support the wellbeing of both staff and pupils and to create a shared language across your whole school community.
Remember we all find it hard sometimes. As adults, we have developed a range of our own coping techniques whether that be 5 minutes in a quiet classroom at lunchtime, a nice glass of something, or a phone call to a loved one. We need to recognise children often have a wide range of emotions bottled up, but they haven’t yet developed their own strategies so we need to help them on this journey!