The School and My Child ? Mental Health in Context
As a parent, maximum attention gets placed upon the role that you play in shaping the life of your child. What were the decisions you took and the choices you made? How did you stay involved and contribute to the development of your child? Did you make yourself available enough? Did you tell him the right things? Were you able to instil the morals that he needs to negotiate life and the varying situations it presents?
But what about the other factors that in fact have a huge impact upon your child and his mental health and well-being?
My honest and firm belief is that the school your child goes to probably plays the same if not a more prominent role in shaping your child and his future. The skills and abilities that a child develops through his various activities in school go a long way in determining how well adjusted he would be in society, not just now but even in adulthood. This places the school squarely in a central position of influencing the mental health of your child.
How Does the School Exert this Influence?
The fact is that your child spends the maximum part of his waking hours at school. The interactions he has there and the activities he engages in at school thus tend to exert a strong influence in how he grows up to be. There are various aspects of being in a school that teach children critical life skills that go a long way in ensuring their success in the future. Let us look at some of these.
- Children learn critical social skills at school. Being in a heterogeneous group of people, children learn how to be around others and how to communicate with them.
- Negotiation and problem solving are critical aspects that are learnt as one works with people coming from diverse backgrounds with their own ways of thinking and doing things.
- One learns to brainstorm and discuss – a skill which is very important as one grows up.
- Creativity is espoused strongly in children as they go through the various activities that they engage in at school.
- Decision making is encouraged as children learn to make choices.
- Working in teams is an aspect which children learn as they participate in sports and other activities as groups in the class.
- Balancing activities is a skill that develops in a child as they strive to strike the right balance between their academics and extra-curricular activities at school, as well as the tasks they need to accomplish at home.
- Handling pressure is something which a student learns at school as they face examinations.
- Children learn to tolerate the consequences of their actions and understand the role that mistakes play in shaping their choices in the future.
The School’s Role when there is a Mental Health Concern
The school plays a crucial role in not just providing the opportunities for your child to develop the skills and resilience to tolerate stress and pressures and have good mental health. Besides providing the foundation for helping a child acquire the right life skills the school plays a huge role in also identifying and intervening when a problem does occur.
- Generating awareness around problems is a key role that schools play and this process is not just restricted to teachers and other staff. In fact a lot of sensitization work is done in school with other students as well as parents to ensure no child is isolated or ridiculed on account of the problem he may be facing relating to mental health.
- Identification of mental health related problems in children can be done best by the school. The provision of a trained counsellor along with the constant training that is provided to both teaching and non-teaching staff in schools goes a long way in ensuring that a problem can be identified at the earliest. There cannot be a stronger emphasis placed on the need for early identification of problems which relate to mental health.
- The school acts as the first team of responders who once they have identified a problem with a child or group of children can be rather helpful to parents as well as the child in determining a way forward. Regardless of how distressing it is for a parent to know that there may be a problem with their child, it is better to know about these aspects at the earliest rather than wait for the years to go by when the problem reaches a stage where it becomes difficult to bring about a change.
- Significant interventions can be done at the school and by the team of trained experts available at the school. This is an aspect which cannot be emphasised enough as often parents hesitate to share with the school that their child may be facing a problem. In fact keeping the school in the loop can ensure that whatever strategies need to be put in place are finding continuity even in the school environment.
- Schools and external experts actively collaborate to ensure that any child who is facing a challenge is well taken care of. This aspect is rather critical and one which is crucial in ensuring that there is continuity of treatment and that all aspects relating to a problem are being tackled.
- The school can be a significant source of support once there is transparency between the school, parents and any external expert working with the child. This aspect has also been seen to act as a buffer for the child in case there is any awkward social situation in front of classmates or other students in the school.
As a parent it is important to work in conjunction with your child’s school to provide him with the best platform for his success and continued mental health and well-being. Problems, if seen in your child, can be easily tackled if we collaborate with the school and utilise the provisions and supports they have in place.