Pastoral care is at the centre of the Bridgewater ethos and supporting the health and wellbeing of all students remains a key target. Our aim is to enable our children to manage times of change and stress so that they reach their potential or to encourage them to access help when they need it. Helping students develop their social and emotional wellbeing helps them become happy and self-confident learners.
As a school it is our role to ensure that children recognise the benefits of positive mental health and how to achieve these. This is covered in PSHCE lessons, mindfulness activities in form periods within the Senior School, through P.E. and weekly assemblies celebrating relevant cultural events and topics. In our Prep Department we study a range of topics through PSHE lessons such as Health, Wellbeing and Family Life. The Prep Department also has a designated DEN (Develop, Encourage and Nuture room). This room is designed to help support pupils’ social and emotional wellbeing and provides a private space in which staff can speak to students on a one-to-one basis.
It is important that students are aware of how they can maintain positive mental health; what affects their mental health; how they can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and where they can go if they need health or support.
Breaking the stigma
Understanding and responding to our mental health and wellbeing needs is something we believe passionately in here at Bridgewater School. We aim to take away the stigma some in society show towards mental health, respond positively to any mental health issues and help our students and their families to talk openly about any challenges they might face.
Looking after yourself – advice for students and parents
It is important to recognise and support your child is there are issues that are impacting on their mental health. This doesn’t mean that they will be constantly happy, nor does it mean that they should ignore the stresses they may face. As a parent you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust, either inside or outside school, and ask their advice. Sometimes it may feel easier to carry on struggling with difficult situations because you feel this is a private matter or because of a belief that you should be able to cope. But seeking support may help to manage many negative emotions and help your family develop strategies to manage the wellbeing and mental health of your child more effectively.
In many instances, young people’s negative feelings and worries usually improve with the support of their parents and families. It may be a particular incident or situation that has triggered negative emotions and families can often support young people by working through the problem together at home. It is helpful for the school to know what our young individuals are going through at these times, as staff will need to support your child in school and we would encourage you to contact school to discuss even minor issues with which we may be able to offer our support.
This support can take myriad forms and may only last for a short time. It may involve a daily check-in with their form tutor / class teacher or another trusted adult within school. This allows students time to talk through what they are feeling and help them discuss their strategies in moving forwards with the feelings they are encountering.
If your child is distressed for a long time, and if their negative feelings are impacting their lives dramatically, or if their distress is disrupting family life, then please contact Ms Hemmings or the Pastoral Coordinator for your child’s year group. We are here to help and support, and may be able to signpost ways that you can access external support if and when this is needed.
Steps to help your child at home
If you are worried about your child’s wellbeing, please contact us for support. There are many strategies we can all implement to support our mental and physical health, some of which are detailed below:
- Routine – Having a routine is really helpful. This could be set times for getting up, eating, going to bed and completing homework. This allow a feeling of control and safety for a young person
- Exercise – Physical activity should be encouraged. It is proven that being active improves our mental wellbeing. This can involve going to the gym or taking part in competitive sport, but it also doesn’t have to be particularly vigorous either. Family walks or bike rides are equally helpful or even jumping on a trampoline in the garden
- Mindfulness – Some students find mindfulness and yoga-based exercises helpful and may already use some of the apps recommended below. For other ideas, please see the links provided. Other mindfulness activities include colouring or painting, and there are a variety of items that can be purchased online to support this
- Healthy eating – It is so easy when stuck in the house to live on junk food. Try to eat regularly and choose healthy foods over the empty calories provided by biscuits, crisps and chocolate. Drinking lots of water should also be encouraged
- Maintain positive relationships – Socialising with others, on a face-to-face basis, is important. If you are unable to see a friend or relative in person, use video calls or phone calls to stay connected
- Enjoy a hobby, new or old – Baking, gardening, model building… Get involved in something you enjoy
- Limit exposure to the news – It is good to read or watch the news, but overexposure can cause increased anxiety and can impact negatively on our mental health. Have a set time or set amount of time to access the news each day to try and prevent overload
- Sleep – Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Maintain a regular sleep routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day where possible. Some of the mindfulness apps mentioned below can help with getting to sleep
- Spend time outside – Try and spend time in the garden or outside on a walk each day. Vitamin D exposure is good and being outside can help lift low moods
- Set working time – Encourage a regular working pattern with key times to complete work. This prevents work encroaching on your whole day. It is important to have a cut-off point, allowing yourself a chance for ‘down time’ to reconnect with friends and family, or taking part in something you enjoy
- Encourage an open dialogue at home – It is important that your child can share their feelings with you or friends. Even if they don’t want to talk all the time, ensure they have someone to talk to if they want to. Children’s anxiety is bound to be higher in the current COVID situation, so you may find they have questions.
There are a number of helplines and websites where you or your child can seek extra advice if you feel this is needed. Please click on the links provided below:
This site is useful for resources on mental health and wellbeing
The Childline site has some good resources to help support children during the Coronavirus pandemic
This is a mental health service based in Manchester, providing free support to young people between the ages of 13 and 25. There is advice online and a live online support service that can be accessed. This is a free one-to-one service for young people struggling with anxiety, bereavement or mental health issues.
Referrals can be made by parents or young people. If you wish to discuss school making a referral to support your child’s wellbeing, or need some support to make a referral on behalf of your child, please contact Ms C Hemmings, Head of Learning Support and Assistant to the Deputy Head of Pastoral for support.
This is a charity supporting children’s mental health. A parents’ helpline is open 9.30am-4pm, Monday to Friday on 0808 802 5544
Offering resources and counselling for children.
The following lists helpful mindfulness apps for children (they can also useful to adults):
- Stop, Breath, Think (aimed at primary aged students)
- Smiling Mind
- Insight Timer
- Positive Penguins (aimed at 8-12 year old children).