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How do we (parents and schools) promote mental health? Can it be taught?

(40 Posts)
teslagirl Fri 11-Jul-08 10:16:44

You know how the schools are forever banging the 'healthy eating/exercise' drum- well, what do they do about promoting good mental health? What can WE do as parents? We all know the nuts and bolts of physical health as in what's good to eat, what isn't, that we should take 'x' amount of exercise, not smoking, limiting booze- y'know, all things we rigorously follow...! BUT where are the 'pointers', the bullet-point guidelines for encouraging good mental health?

Are they so vague and fuzzy no one would dare commit them to paper? ARE they different to each individual? IS it because people who do manage to weather the vicissitudes of life have had the benefit of a randomly 'lucky' start which cannot be taught or which cannot be 'repaired' in its absence later? IS it because the ability to 'cope/get on with it/dust yourself down and carry on' is inborn, as in genetic thus cannot be taught?

There was an article in the paper not so long ago where someone suggested we should be teaching resilience in our DCs in school as opposed to the 'softer' skills of empathy and understanding which I know ARE discussed in circle-time in primary schools. He felt, as I recall that too much sympathy/empathy 'teaching' bred a victim mentality in the DCs, in that one's boss wouldn't exude sympathy or empathy if you weren't coping at work- he'd sack you! NOTE to skim readers: I'm not agreeing with this! Just stating it!

What do you all think? I really don't know. I'd imagine it's horses for courses; bright, confident 'leader' DCs could perhaps benefit form some knowledge of empathy; shy, under-confident retiring DCs from some 'get on with it' training.

I guess I'm just alarmed at the sheer numbers of people suffering mental health issues, where their lives are more or less paralysed by panic attacks, excessive anxiety , prescription drug dependencies and so on, who no longer seem to have any handle on the rudder of their lives at all. CAN we as parents or teachers access a tried and tested methodology to try and 'immunise' our DCs as far as possible against this possible destruction of their lives? Or really do we 'only' have the 'weapons' of love and attention to give our DCs?

forevercleaning Fri 11-Jul-08 10:21:19

I think we can only encourage our children to 'talk' about any problems they may have.

Children who have noone to turn to or feel embarassed can have difficulties later.

With support and encouragement and being a good ear to them i suppose would be the best option.

fembear Fri 11-Jul-08 13:15:30

Some believe that happiness can be taught and the concept is slowly gaining credence.
Article here.

SueW Fri 11-Jul-08 13:32:44

I was looking at the website of a school recently which stated its pupils don't need happiness lessons because of the fulfilment they get each day.

It's not on the one I thought it was though. Will try to find it.

teslagirl Fri 11-Jul-08 13:52:21

I must say I DO believe that self-esteem doesn't come from praising a DC's every move but in helping a DC to do the best they can in a given thing then for that DC to feel proud of what they've achieved- whilst even recognising that other's may have, objectively, done better. I think we, as modern parents, have got a bit sucked into that idea that you have to praise, praise, praise your DC however lacklustre the effort as a way of getting the DC to try harder. Wot? Perhaps that school doesn't need 'happiness' lessons because the DCs have already been taught that feeling good often is a by-product of a sense of achievement.

teslagirl Fri 11-Jul-08 13:54:05

And an interesting article, fembear!

rebelmum1 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:02:04

Isn't it about your outlook? This comes predominantly from parenting surely, the crucial age in developing your outlook and how you perceive the world is between 0-7, you can't undo negative programming with a few lessons taught by a non professional surely.

rebelmum1 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:02:51

Christ schools struggle with teaching kids to read I for one wouldn't trust them with my childs mental health, that's my responsibilty!

rebelmum1 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:03:51

You teach your children by your own example and what messages YOU give them.

laidbackinengland Fri 11-Jul-08 14:07:18

They are doing this in our county

I don't think it is designed to or should replace what we need to be doing with our children - i.e. giving them an emotional language etc, but it might add something for those who don't have these things modelled to them at home.

bythepowerofgreyskull Fri 11-Jul-08 14:09:08

I think your post is an interesting one.

I try very hard for DS's to feel their feelings are taken seriously. My anger, sadness, frustration were swept aside when I was a child and that has made me grow up into an adult who doesn't know how to deal with these very natural emotions.

As much as it is annoying I have to acknowledge that a particular situation has made DS1 really cross, frustrated, sad. I can't always change the situation but I think acknowledgement of his feelings has to be a start?

I don't think the lessons can be taught in school but I do think parents can do a huge amount to help/hinder the mental health a person has as they grow up.

hattyyellow Fri 11-Jul-08 14:10:51

This scheme is fantastic, they are running it at my friends daughter's school - encouraging young people to come and talk to a counsellor and learn to deal with issues affecting them and move on from them. I think they are hoping to continue to expand nationwide.

rebelmum1 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:13:07

I think each school should have a school psychologist.

Anna8888 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:13:33

I think that we need to teach empathy for others and I don't think that that is a soft skill but a hard, analytical one.

And I think that we also need to teach self-defence (protecting ourselves from others when they overstep our boundaries) and that that is also a hard, analytical skill.

And the mastery of both those skills is intrinsically linked to the skills of negotiation, cooperation and compromise - which are also hard, analytical skills.

rebelmum1 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:14:20

The scheme sounds a bit like moo baa double quack double quack to me

rebelmum1 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:15:28

Yes anna if someone hits you you should hit them back! That would make sounder teaching in my view.

teslagirl Fri 11-Jul-08 14:17:54

DO you think, though, and this is a serious question, not a put down!- do you think in constantly endeavouring to provide DCs with 'a talking-place/ emotional support/counselling' at every turn MIGHT be contributing to problems down the line either when, suddenly, that service is no longer available, or perhaps in making that DC into a 'victim' of whatever has happened to them, in need of help? That we take away from the DC the opportunity to develop the ability to work through the problem for themselves? That's working on the assumption that we can't change what happens, but we can change how we choose to feel about it or how we choose to assimilate that event into our lives?

Should we be providing 'the talking place' or the tools for a DC to internally construct their OWN talking-place? IFSWIM!

Anna8888 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:20:40

rebelmum1 - I did not advocate physical violence.

teslagirl Fri 11-Jul-08 14:20:58

Reiterating once again that all my questions are genuine, hoping to promote discussion, I do want to say that I'm really not sure that empathy is a skill that can be taught. But I'm willing to hear from those who say it can, and how it can be achieved! I would agree that self-defence and the art of negotiation are 'hard' skills that can be taught, though.

SueW Fri 11-Jul-08 14:21:09

Picking up on the praise, praise thing - I think we should be honest with our children. They aren't daft - they know when they haven't done something well and they soon learn to read that, say, mum's words say that's great darling and her tortured expression is telling me something else!

I don't think they can get great sense of well-being when they feel no-one's telling them the truth.

Anna8888 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:22:46

teslagirl - no I don't.

I think human beings only continue to develop and mature if they are constantly exchanging their opinions and feelings with other human beings. They need to learn that if they are ever in a place where they have no other humans to share their innermost feelings with in a safe way that that is bad for them and that they need to seek out other human beings for that type of exchange as a matter of urgency.

Anna8888 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:24:59

You can teach empathy by constantly pointing out to children that there are multiple POVs to any social interaction, and discussing with them what those POVs might be and where they come from and helping them understand how a compromise between POVs (where no-one gets their perfect deal but everyone gets a good enough one) is the ultimate human solution.

Anna8888 Fri 11-Jul-08 14:26:42

SueW - agree entirely, give praise only where it is deserved and sincere, not as a matter of course. Help children understand when they have made great personal achievements (even if they are not making achievements that are better than others by external standards), and also where they have achieved little even when by external standards they are doing well.

foxinsocks Fri 11-Jul-08 14:30:46

I don't know but I've thought about it a lot.

I read something about adults who cope best with what life has thrown at them have

a) a good sense of humour and
b) resilience/good coping skills

I think coping skills are v important and that's tied up with what you are all saying about letting children express their feelings and letting them understand that they are valid and perhaps working on getting them to think about solutions to emotional problems themselves (with your help at first). I don't know.

I do think a positive self esteem is important and I'd love it if my children left home with that.

I think it's an important thing (promoting good mental health) though.

noche Fri 11-Jul-08 14:32:26

The SEAL programme running in both Primary and now Secondary has a lot to offer in terms of emotional well being, including resilience. I am responsible for its implementation at our school and it has been really useful. All Primaries should be "doing SEAL" and secondaries coming on board nowish.

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