It is Children’s Mental Health week. This is another great initiative from Place2B and highlights, in particular, the difficulties our children are facing right now. This year, the theme is “Express Yourself”. Children can spend up to 8 hours a day at school. For many, it is the place where they do just that. Drama, music, break time on the playground and even classroom activities like creative writing all provide an outlet for them to express their dreams, desires and fears. But with school not there, it is left up to parents and caregivers to provide an outlet.
My official title is Psychotherapist. But I also call myself a counsellor and a coach. And a question I hear regularly is: “Do I need a psychotherapist, a counsellor or a coach?” For some the idea of “psychotherapy” is frightening. It suggests mental illness. Or that there are mental health issues that need to be resolved and that it will be a lengthy, emotionally painful process. In my opinion, it does not need to be either. I see many clients who are living with depression or the impact of terrible traumas. But the style of psychotherapy I use aims to resolve these as quickly and as with as little emotional pain as possible.
But there are many others who give me a ring and come along to see me who are living healthy and, mostly, fulfilling lives. Why have they asked to see me?
I was recently asked by Brighter Spaces in Islington to write a blog for them. Having a strong background in education, I decided to follow a regular theme of mine: stress and wellbeing difficulties in teenagers
Something is happening to our teenagers and we, the adults, need to start listening. I have a background in secondary schools as I have only recently left the classroom in order to follow my psychotherapy and counselling career on a full-time basis. Over my teaching career, I have seen a massive shift in what is troubling young people. It is far too easy to lay the blame on social media. Frankly, I am bored of hearing that as THE reason behind the difficulties our young people are having. We need to look beyond that and ask ourselves: what is really going on?
Most children will go through a phase where they might find the world around them and the ensuing emotions a little tough to handle. This can lead to anger or temper tantrums; poor sleep and a raft of other childhood emotional difficulties. For parents these phases can be equally tough. Parent and child often do not have the coping skills to manage these difficult phases. Parents often ask me if there is anything they can give their child to read that might make understanding what they are going through a little easier.
Social Life: You need one. You cannot spend all day alone. Making time for meaningful face to face interaction (not on a screen) with your close friends will give you much needed down time and a shift in focus. But having chats with your classmates also allows you to gain perspective. You might realise you do actually know that complicated bit of Physics or you don’t know it quite as well as you thought you did and you need to revisit it.
Firstly, it has to be said that there is no substitution for hard work. You cannot go into the exams if you are not prepared academically. But more about that at another time. This guide is aimed at what you can do to prepare yourself emotionally for the exam season by keeping exam stress and anxiety as low as possible.
A lot has been said recently about mobile phones and the classroom. Some of it useful. I am a teacher and a Human Givens therapist. I think I have an understanding of both the learning potential that a mobile can offer as well as its potential risks to the mental health and wellbeing of the child or adolescent. Yes, mobiles and everything that goes with them can be damaging to our mental health. Well, pollution is bad for our mental health. Does that mean we all have to escape the city and live in the countryside? The mobile phone is here to stay. Instead of trying to ban them from schools, we would be much wiser to engage with the teenagers’ model of reality and learn with them how we can use the mobile in a way that is productive.
Being a Human Givens practitioner means accepting the premise of the approach: we all have emotional needs. Here is my take on applying the relevant ones to the classroom.
Each pupil needs to feel safe in the classroom. As a teacher, I need to create an environment where it is safe to ask and answer a question. Too often pupils are scared to speak up out of the fear of being wrong. It is my responsibility to make it clear that it is safe to make mistakes. Getting things wrong is part of learning. Why is it wrong? How do I get to a more correct answer? Is there even a correct answer? Sometimes this might mean having to explore more of a Growth Mindset by reframing in the following way: You might not know the answer YET.