Guidance for Teachers
We know mental health difficulties create blocks to learning. Worried, angry or depressed children will find it difficult to concentrate at school.
It can be quite daunting thinking about talking to children about feelings or mental health issues, as teachers you spend a lot of time with children and young people and you may be the first to notice something is troubling them.
Many teachers are also unsure if they should approach young people about mental health issues in case it makes things worse, but simply noticing may be enough to enable a child or young person let you know how they are feeling. DON'T WORRY about getting it wrong, children are very good at letting you know if this is the case. You will not make things worse. Even if they reject your efforts they will know someone has noticed and may come back to you or someone else in school and talk about it, e.g.
Teacher: “You seem really sad today”
Child: “ Yes Miss, my mum is poorly”
Child: “No Miss, I feel really tired”
It is important that children feel safe to talk to you, be clear that things are confidential, do not promise to keep secrets, often children tell you things because they want something done about it. If it is a safeguarding issue always refer to your child protection lead in school and follow safeguarding procedures. You don’t have to have the answers to their difficulties, allowing them space and time to talk to you may be enough, it is ok to tell them you don’t know and that you will get back to them.
Strategies That May Help:
- Listening actively
- Open questions
- Warmth and empathy – be genuine
- Take account of cultural issues
- Emotional language – age appropriate
- Being there Links with attachment – make time
- Even if they don’t talk to you, the main thing is not to put them off talking to someone in the future
- Doing what you promise – don’t let them down!
- Create structure and regular routines
- Break tasks down, give brief, unambiguous instructions and sufficient time to complete them
- Provide a variety of physical activities
- Where possible sit the child at the front of the class
- Reward any achievement
- Knowing what they can and can’t do
- Be consistent
- Expect challenge