A Whole School Community Approach
Unit 11 – Expect the Unexpected
The main focus of this unit is recognising that, no matter how much we would like to, we cannot protect ourselves from change as it is a part of life. Sometimes change can be a positive experience (e.g. exciting new opportunities) but sometimes it brings with it, disappointments, difficulties or loss. Helping children to understand that change in life is a given, and not unique to them, can help normalise their experiences and encourage reflection on what can help us to better prepare ourselves for a future full of unknowns.
1. Change is a part of life.
2. It’s OK not to be OK
3. I have learnt ways to look after my mental health
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This unit will also give children a chance to revisit work on emotions and particularly that it is OK to feel emotions such as sadness when the reality around you changes or when experiencing loss. It will also give children tools to help support others in distress. We cannot control the amount of good or bad experiences in our lives, but research finds that being in touch with and accepting your emotions – even the difficult ones – and expressing them in authentic and healthy ways is the key to wellbeing2.
The final part of the unit, will be reflecting over the Building Resilience programme and the journey on the River of Life with Skipper as a guide. Over the past 3 years, we have looked at 10 different tools in turn which have much been much evidenced by research as having a positive effect on our mental wellbeing. While we do not know what challenges life will deal us, children have learnt that there are things we can do to look after our mental health to make sure we are in a good place to meet and effectively recover from them3.
1. Change is a part of life.
The children will be introduced to a big change that Skipper has to face. This offers them an opportunity to encourage reflection on how life is always changing, and what positives and negatives this can bring. They will explore changes in animals, nature, cities, populations, people around them and in themselves. The activities will encourage critical reflection about why we might prefer to continue in the River of Life despite its constant changes and all the ups and downs.
2. It’s OK not to be OK
In this section, the children learn that sometimes you will encounter difficult experiences including loss and it is normal and healthy to feel emotions like sadness or anger. Some things cannot get better or be fixed no matter how much you wish for this and how they can manage or find ways to cope with loss.
3. I have learnt ways to look after my mental health
In this section, pupils will consider how just like we learn to look after our physical health from a young age (e.g. importance of eating vegetables/fruit, brushing our hair, cleaning our teeth, washing our hands), we also need to look after our mental health. Children will be given opportunities to reflect on and remember the different tools that Skipper has used on his journey on the River of Life that can help us.
Unit 10 – Have a Goal
Feeling good about the future is important for our wellbeing. We need goals to motivate us and these need to be meaningful and aligned with our values, challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable.
- Setting a realistic goal helps to motivate us
- Learning to overcome setbacks helps us cope with future ones
- It is important to celebrate our successes
Research shows that setting and working towards goals can contribute to our wellbeing by being a source of interest, engagement or pleasure and giving us a sense of meaning and purpose. Goals are most successful when we set them for ourselves and they are personally significant rather than being something someone else wants us to do and where we draw on social and environmental resources and support to achieve them achieve them. Furthermore, it is important to break goals down into smaller manageable
steps because if we try to attempt the impossible this brings unnecessary stress whereas
focusing on smaller steps makes any setbacks seem less significant. Research demonstrates
that our belief in our ability to creatively tackle problems and setbacks is crucial for
resilience. When we do accomplish something (especially if we have overcome setbacks
along the way) this helps to build our confidence and belief in what we can cope with and
achieve in the future.
Unit 9- Be Kind to Others
The main focus of this unit is on the importance of being kind to ourselves and others.
It is always lovely to be on the receiving end of a thank you or a kind act but research
has found that kindness benefits the giver as well as the receiver. It can improve the immune system, extend our life span and make us happier. When we are kind, it strengthens our connections with others. Sadly, when we are not treated kindly or are isolated from others this can have a detrimental impact on our wellbeing. The brain responds to social rejection as it would an actual physical injury and explains why being bullied or left out can feel so devastating. It is important to know how to make amends when we are unkind.
- Kindness makes a difference to ourselves and others.
- Being unkind hurts others and it hurts us too.
- It is important to be kind to yourself.
- Kindness makes a difference to ourselves and others.
This section introduces the children to a concept called ‘Bucket Filling’ based around a book called ‘Have you filled a bucket today?’ by Carol McCloud. It is an easy-to-understand concept. Everyone carries an invisible bucket that fills up whenever we do planned or random kind, considerate, helpful things for ourselves or others (bucket fillers).
- Being unkind hurts others and it hurts us too
When we say things that are mean, inconsiderate, uncaring, or disrespectful to ourselves or others this has a negative impact and gradually empties our buckets (bucket dippers). This section explores how when we hurt others what we can do to make amends and restore trust and balance in a relationship.
- It is important to be kind to yourself
This section will help children explore self-compassion. That when things do not go as planned, or we make a mistake or are suffering, that we need to talk to and treat ourselves with the same kindness that we might show a friend rather than with harsh self-judgement. Children need to learn that this is a much more motivating way to get back on our feet and remind themselves that they are part of a big world of imperfect humans and are not alone.
Unit 7- Make a Difference
The focus of this unit is on the importance of contributing in big and small ways to make a difference to individuals, our community and our world. Research has found that engaging in activities which are meaningful and altruistic leads to greater enjoyment of things you do, feelings of happiness, a sense of hope for the future and Increased physical and mental wellbeing. Studies are finding that when we shift our focus from ‘Me’ to ‘We’ and connect to something bigger to find meaning and purpose, we are not only happier but experience less stress, anxiety and depression. It is important for children to understand that, whilst many of the issues in the world can feel very big, even small things can make a positive difference and be hugely meaningful for those that are involved.
- Things humans do have an impact on the world
- Children can contribute to solving problems in the world
- Smalls things can make a meaningful difference
Unit 6- Get Active
The main focus of this unit is on building understanding of how keeping physically active can also help to contribute to our mental health. Exercise releases endorphins and dopamine – brain chemicals that affect our mood and make us feel happier. It brings down high levels of stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol. Some scientific studies have shown that regular exercise can be as effective as anti‐depressant medication in treating mild to moderate depression, but also that it could help protect people against experiencing depression in the first place. One study showed that the effects of exercise and activity on mental health were enhanced if taking place outside in green space. Activities that can contribute to your mental health go beyond just physical exercise and can encompass a wide range of hobbies, interests and passions. Research has found that doing things you enjoy, are passionate about or are good at gives you a sense of achievement, meaning and fulfilment which also contribute to your wellbeing.
- Being active is not only good for the body but also for the mind
- I have a range of hobbies and interests that I enjoy doing
- Doing anything new involves taking a risk
Unit 5- Talk Things Over
This unit explores how at times we all feel worried and the importance of dealing with worries. Through a variety of approaches and activities the children are encouraged to share and talk about what they might be worried about. Difficult life events and circumstances can understandably cause us worry and anxiety, but research has also found that the way we think, respond and process what happens to us can help to buffer the negative effects and support our wellbeing. Often we find ourselves worrying and repeatedly thinking about events in our past (‘if only’) or events that may happen in the future (‘what if’). This is called rumination and has been found to be the biggest predictor of depression and anxiety, even though studies indicate that 85% of what we worry about never happens and the rest we manage better than we thought we would. The good news is that while we cannot change our past or predict the future, the way we think and deal with things can be changed. This section looks at how we can learn to deal with our worries. Strategies include writing things down, talking things over, keeping your thoughts rooted in the present and what is under your control (mindfulness), exercising self-compassion and asking for help.
- At times we all feel worried
- Sometimes if worries are not dealt with they can get out of control
- If you are struggling, it is important to ask for help
Unit 4- Take a Moment
The main focus of this unit is on helping children to develop the emotional literacy skills they require to navigate their everyday life. We all experience a range of emotions every day but being aware and learning how to manage these are one of the foundational skills of resilience and important for our health and wellbeing. Crucially this is also true, when we experience feelings of stress. While, overwhelming stress is not good for our health and wellbeing, research has made it clear that mild to moderate stress is vital for getting us out of our comfort zone, helping to motivate us, meet new challenges and enhance our performance. What remains important is to learn helpful tools and strategies to help us deal with stress and anxiety and the research shows us many different ways to do this. Ultimately, children who grow up to be adults who manage stress well is largely down to whether they have been helped by adults to establish good ways to regulate stress in childhood.
- We all experience a range of emotions every day
- Sometimes we feel stressed
- I have ways to help me cope
Unit 3- Challenge Your Mindset
The main focus of this unit is about considering how and why we hold beliefs about our abilities and intellect which in turn can positively or negatively influence how we learn and behave. The unit will draw particularly on the work of Carol Dweck whose research has demonstrated that we can hold fixed or growth mindsets in relation to our abilities in particular areas. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that you are either good at something or you are not and this cannot be changed. They interpret effort and/or mistakes, as a sign we are not good at something and tend to give up and avoid further challenges in the future. Someone with a growth mindset believes that we can get better at anything with effort and practice and setbacks and mistakes are opportunities to learn and develop.
- Who we are and what we are good at is not fixed
- The way we think, feel or learn shapes our brain
- I can change through the choices I make
Unit 2: Respect Yourself
The main focus of this unit is on the importance of recognising and valuing ourselves as individuals. People who respect themselves, like themselves. They have a core set of moral values that are not based on what they can or can’t do, or in comparing themselves to others. Nobody’s perfect – but learning to accept ourselves warts-and-all, identifying our strengths and looking after ourselves and our bodies increases our enjoyment of life and wellbeing. Research is clear that looking after our body is also of paramount importance for our health. Good sleep, nutrition and exercise have all been correlated with better mental and physical health outcomes.
- There’s no one quite like me
- Everyone has different strengths
- I treat myself with respect
Unit 1- Keep Connected
The main focus of this unit is the importance of relationships and the contribution other people make to our well-being. Our sense of security and belonging is helped when we understand that we are part of a network of people who are special to us. Research finds that people who have caring and positive relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Even just one loving and encouraging person can help make a big difference to a child’s life especially if they are facing multiple other risk factors.
- Relationships are important for our health and wellbeing
- Belonging to a group can be a good way of building friendships
- Good relationships are a two way thing
Unit 0- Be Resilient
In this unit, the children will be introduced to our character called Skipper. Skipper, is the captain of his boat, and like everyone on the river, goes through various ups and downs on his journey. On his way, he will introduce the children to ten different tools and resources that help us to navigate the river of life and support the development of resilience.
- Everyone goes through ups and downs in their life
- We can learn to be more resilient
- Resilient people cope better with difficulties
Resilience is a key factor in protecting and promoting good mental health. It relates to the things (both internal and external) that act as protective factors to help us cope with the ups and downs of life. The focus of the first unit is to introduce children to the concept of resilience and how we can support its development.
In order to help children to grasp the tricky concept of resilience we will refer to life being like a river. As we travel down the river of life, sometimes we find ourselves in calm waters where the journey is relaxed and enjoyable. However, sometimes we can find ourselves in turbulent waters, full of obstacles and difficulties and the journey becomes about survival and keeping our heads above water.
Some children are lucky enough to be born in the calm waters, where all those about them are able to help protect and support the child and teach them valuable skills to navigate the river. However, some children are born into the more turbulent waters where they may not have the same support and learning these skills can be harder, as resources are scarce and adults around them are also struggling to keep their heads above water. Equally, our starting points may be influenced by biological, organic and genetic factors that are out with our control.
Wherever we may start, we can all find ourselves in turbulent waters during our lives e.g. as a result of bereavement, job loss, setbacks, illness, relationship breakdown etc. So the key question is how can we gather resources around us and learn and develop skills and strategies that protect us in tougher times and help us to navigate back to calmer waters.
Equally important is to guard against the desire to protect children from experiencing the ups and downs of the river of life by grounding them to the shore. In the effort to keep them safe and deal with all their difficulties for them, research suggests this might be undermining the development of resilience. Instead, our role is to help teach children to develop the skills and strategies, build resources and support to help them to cope with setbacks, so that, as they grow up, they have the tools necessary to look after and support their own mental health and wellbeing.
Roseburn Pupil Council share Top Tips for Families
Our Top Tips for parents and carers to support children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.