As parents and teachers, we want nothing but the best for our children. We want them to be healthy, happy and successful in all aspects of their lives. The last few years have been difficult for our children. The closures of schools and being isolated from each other have caused a rise in mental health issues among young people. At the British International School of Bratislava, we support students socially, emotionally and academically so that they can reach their full potential.
Below are three important elements that can help support children (and adults) to move from surviving to thriving, which can be applied at school or at home.
Flow is when a person is fully emersed and engaged in an activity. This may be a sporting, academic or artistic pursuit. Find something that your child loves to do and is naturally skilled at. When they are given time and space in that activity they will naturally fall into a state of flow where their mind and body are completely engrossed. When the brain enters a state of flow, parts of the brain connect on a higher level. This releases dopamine which is a chemical which makes you feel positive. Regularly entering a state of flow improves emotional regulation and increases self-esteem.
Creating connection is one of the most important mental health protective factors. Humans need to feel, seen and heard by each other. Spending quality time as a family and having open and honest communication models healthy social behaviour. Asking open questions such as ‘What went well today?’, ‘What would have made today an even better day?’ and ‘What are you grateful for today?’ will help them to communicate clearly and connect more deeply. Supporting your child to make strong friendships both in school and the wider community will also support their social development.
Many of the usual routines and boundaries had to change during the lockdown. For children to feel physically and emotionally safe, they need to have clear rules, limits and routines so they know what to expect. It is often tempting to avoid the word ‘no’ but by sometimes telling children ‘no’ they learn to manage the emotions such as disappointment that may follow. Learning to manage these emotions will prepare them to be more resilient later in life. Setting boundaries models healthy behaviour so they are more likely to set their own boundaries with others.
Many children struggle with increased anxiety, friendship issues or behaviour problems as they re-adjust to life after Covid-19. By helping them to find their flow, connecting with others and creating a strong safe environment around them, we can support children to move from surviving to thriving.
Gabrielle Clover is Deputy Head of Primary at The British International School Bratislava.