Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in the number of mental health issues that children and young people are facing. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 75% of children and young people who experience mental health problems aren’t getting the help they need. It is impacting their learning, with many children and young people experiencing social, emotional and mental health difficulties. This is why it is more vital than ever that we shine the spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health and to look at ways we can support them.
Today marks the start of Children’s Mental Health Week. Since it first launched in 2015, Children’s Mental Health Week has become a nationally recognised event with hundreds of schools, colleges, children, parents and carers taking part across England, Wales and Scotland. The awareness week is run by Place2Be and it runs until Sunday 12th February. The theme for this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is “Let’s Connect”.
Building positive connections with others can help children and young people to adopt healthier thinking habits, reduce stress and manage anxiety. These connections make children and young people feel good, and as a result they are more likely to stay connected by continuing to communicate with others and joining in with classroom discussions. The more children and young people communicate with friends and family, the more they feel loved, appreciated and valued. There are plenty of ways we can help children and young people to feel good about themselves and encourage them to stay connected with others; one of these methods is to set up a nurture group at school.
At nurtureuk, we are dedicated to improving the social, emotional, mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. We’ve been at the forefront of the nurture movement for over 50 years and we know first-hand the positive impact that the nurturing approach has on children and young people. Nurture groups in particular, have helped children and young people to develop vital social skills, confidence and self-respect. The environment in nurture groups is warm and accepting, which helps pupils to develop meaningful connections with both teachers and peers.
First and foremost, nurture groups focus on supporting pupils to form attachments to loving and caring adults at school. This unconditional positive regard is the most powerful mechanism for change and it can help to improve children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. The relationship between the two nurture practitioners, always nurturing and supportive, provides a role model that pupils observe and begin to copy. In nurture groups, pupils are given ample opportunities to understand and manage their emotions, reflect on their behaviours in a non-judgmental way, and develop positive friendships. Food is shared at ‘breakfast’ or ‘snack time’ with much opportunity for social learning, helping pupils to attend to the needs of others, with time to listen and be listened to.
Nurture groups led by trained practitioners offer an effective intervention both in primary and secondary education. They have been powerful in enabling emotionally vulnerable children to develop their skills and resilience to engage in, and benefit from, mainstream education. It is evident that nurture groups have positive mental health outcomes across a wide range of areas, for pupils themselves and also for teachers, the school community and beyond.