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How teachers can support anxious students

Rosalyn Sword, education expert at High Speed Training, explains the importance of knowing how to spot signs of anxiety in children and provides expert tips on how teachers can improve wellbeing within the classroom.

As students return to the classroom across the UK with minimal restrictions, there will be a lot of adjusting for them to do.

In line with Department for Education guidelines, children are now not required to adhere to many of the precautionary measures that they became accustomed to last year, leaving feelings of uncertainty.

The online training provider, High-Speed Training, has seen more than a 100% rise in those taking child mental health courses in the last 18 months, proving children’s mental health in the classroom remains high on the agenda for teachers.

Considering 75% of mental illnesses start before a child reaches their 18th birthday, it’s really important to be in tune with a child’s emotions and be able to tell when something a bit more serious is happening.

Especially since the pandemic, children are facing frequent changes which can cause uncertainty and anxiety, ultimately impacting their mental health and wellbeing, including how they view the world, social settings, and interactions.

As education professionals, it’s your job to help them with these struggles and how they deal with them to ensure they pose no detrimental impact on their future.

1. Have an open-door policy

It’s essential that students know they can come and talk to you about any issues or concerns they have. Communicate this to your students clearly so they know you’re always there to listen. It’s important to also highlight that if they don’t want to discuss anything in front of their peers then there’s time during break, lunch, or after school when they can discuss anything that’s on their mind privately.

You could even appoint a designated teacher for each year group who can support any students who are struggling. This person should have training in mental health and know-how to help or even escalate the situation should it be necessary.

2. Talk about it

After such an uncertain period, it’s now more important than ever to openly discuss mental health, and normalise that it can be challenging for everyone at times.

Mental health awareness should be embedded into the culture of your school from the very start of the term. Plan it into PSHCE lessons, address it in assemblies, partner with mental health charities, and celebrate awareness days, like world mental health day, to let students know they’re not alone. It’s a good idea to invite parents and keep them as informed as possible too.

brown wooden table and chairs

3. Encourage socialising and hobbies

After missing out on valuable time socialising with other children and engaging in fun group activities, it’s key to start easing children back into this as soon as possible. Try scheduling 30 minutes or an hour every week where students can be social and focus on something other than the curriculum with their peers.

Allow students to take their minds off things and pursue different passions by running lunchtime clubs. These clubs could be for any activity – arts and crafts, baking, drama clubs, book clubs, film clubs, etc. Allowing them to explore other creative outlets will encourage them to engage in positive activities that they can focus their attention on.

4. Look out for the signs

We can promote positive practices to improve mental health but we’re not able to stop ill mental health from happening, just as we cannot always prevent ill physical health too. This is where it’s invaluable to be able to spot the signs of a child dealing with a lot of anxiety so you can intervene.

From isolating themselves from friends and activities, lacking concentration, irritability, regularly feeling nauseous, to not eating their food – there’s a whole range of telltale signs that you must be in tune with. Once you spot a number of these signs, you can then begin to provide that child with the support that they need to manage their anxieties.

As well as looking for signs of emerging anxiety, make sure you have a proactive plan in preparation for those children already identified as having Social, Emotional and Mental Health special educational needs as it’s highly likely that they’ll need some extra support too.

For those wanting to invest more into their mental health support within schools this year, our Mental Health Training for Teachers or Covid-19 Child Mental Health short course will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge.

For more information click here.

Photo Credit – Ivan Aleksic

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