Exactly like our physical health, our mental health is also crucial for our overall well-being. But unfortunately, mental health is often disregarded or not given enough attention. Similar to how good physical health contributes to success in life, having positive mental health is also vital. However, many children and students face mental health difficulties that hinder their ability to fully engage in learning and lead to behaviors that don’t align with students’ optimal development. For young children, mental health refers to their developing capacity to build close relationships, manage and express emotions, explore their surroundings, and learn. As a teacher, you need to recognize the significance of student mental health and foster their well-being – and, with it, a supportive learning environment.
As grown-ups, we all have unique needs and various ways of dealing with stressful situations. And the same goes for children. While some kids may manage well faced with various situations, others find it challenging to cope with all the changes and uncertainties.
Either way, as teachers and other educators you play a crucial role in supporting student mental health and fostering not only academic but also social growth. Because schools are, of course, viewed as environments for students’ overall development. And that is why fostering healthy mindsets in K-12 students is essential. Check out these suggestions for ensuring your students’ learning and emotional well-being while in school.
#1 Listen to Your Students’ Worries and Concerns
Try to attune yourself to the mental well-being of the students in your classroom. It is crucial that you lend a patient ear to any voiced concerns, fostering an empathetic environment brimming with understanding. By offering students the opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations, you invite them to reconnect and delve into any issues that might have surfaced. If a student shares anything that raises your concern, offer them your support. If it is needed, also appoint them to someone who can help them further.
#2 Turn to Students When Seeking Suggestions on How To Create a Safe and Welcoming Classroom
Involve students in the process of cultivating a classroom that exudes warmth, safety, and comfort. Doing that may pave the way for an inclusive space where young minds can flourish. Ensure that school safety protocols are upheld and the available material resources are put to good use. Encouraging students to contribute their suggestions and ideas, such as adorning the classroom walls with vibrant and welcoming messages or collaborating in small groups to bridge the gaps in learning, fosters an environment where mutual support can thrive.
Emphasize the significance of unity in overcoming challenges and remember to acknowledge and commend children for their efforts and contributions. By engaging in meaningful interactions and cultivating positive relationships with each student, you can nurture feelings of safety and security.
#3 Create a Special Safe Space on School Grounds
Another way to support student mental health is to establish a special “safe space” on school grounds. Think about establishing an on-campus wellness center that is easily accessible to all. Craft the center in collaboration with the students. When done in sync with their wants and needs, it will not only serve its original purpose, but become an appealing space for various activities.
By allowing students to visit the wellness center during class hours, you will demonstrate your commitment to providing holistic support. There, students can engage in simple conversations with their peers, seek professional guidance, explore the realm of self-care, sip tea, unleash their creativity on coloring pages, or embrace moments of meditation. If establishing such a space seems out of reach for your school, select a place in the classroom or elsewhere for students to socialize, play, and reconnect with their peers.
#4 Watch Out for Any Changes in Students’ Behavior
Stay vigilant and attuned to any alterations in students’ behaviors that might hinder their ability to explore, play, and learn. But again, if you observe significant and persistent changes, follow the prescribed school protocol and seek additional support and guidance. While teachers are equipped to offer substantial support in the face of a struggling child, you must recognize the need for specialized assistance and make appropriate referrals to child protection services, primary care physicians, or mental health professionals. Continuously provide support and guidance, and consider adapting the learning pace to students encountering difficulties in learning or maintaining focus.
Fostering Student Mental Health Is One of the Many Teachers’ Missions
Take some time to consider the ways of fostering students’ mental health, best suited to your class or school. Consider what is best suited to their age groups, your school environment, and other relevant factors. When planning how to boost student mental health best, do not forget to take care of your own well-being. You can only raise healthy and upstanding young minds when mindful of your own needs.