Unless you tackle all 4 aspects simultaneously there will always be a ‘weak link’ which will prevent you from fully embedding your culture of wellbeing in your school.
Many schools have created a mental health and wellbeing advice list of what the parents should or should not be letting the children do. For example: suggested use of screen time; the importance of sleep; exercise; diet etc.
All very relevant. But what about the PARENTS?
• If parents spend much of their day with their faces buried in their ‘digital time’ how is this impacting on their ‘real time’ family relationships?
• If parents are constantly ‘working’ and have a poor work/life balance what subliminal message is this sending out about the value we attach to having a quality standard of Life?
• If parents have stopped reading, learning and trying new things what message is this sending out about the value of play, learning and having a growth mindset?
• If parents are prioritizing everything that is material and don’t ‘Give and volunteer’ time for others what is this saying about being aware of the needs of others?
• If parents have stopped relating and engaging in meaningful and sometimes difficult conversations with their children how can they expect the children, to have the confidence, to approach them when they need to talk or develop and sustain mutually satisfying relationships?
• If parents are suffering from a Mental Health illness and are not talking about it or seeking help how is this reinforcing the stigma at home?
Many schools are throwing an enormous amount of energy into trying to provide a robust wellbeing program for our students. But we know in order for it to work we need to connect parents with the work we are doing in school; we need parents’ role-modelling from the top – pushing for an environment at home which nurtures positive Mental Wellbeing.
We need to encourage families to see Mental Health as the development of ‘Mental Wealth.’
Some suggestions on involving parents and raising their awareness could be:
– an online presence on your school website clearly articulating what is mental wellbeing; the need to destigmatise the conversation; why it is important for the whole school community and the signs for the parents to look out for.
– Suggested steps parents can take if they are concerned about their child
– sharing an annual letter or newsletter update at the start of the year on all the mental health and wellbeing strategies your school is planning inviting parents to get involved and ask their child about the projects.
– when year 6 and year 7 parents are invited to transition and open evenings ensure that along with the teaching and learning focus – your focus on wellbeing values is clearly profiled. Be specific about how you would like parents to support at home.
– Invite the students, teachers and parents to suggest their top 10 holistic values and then establish the top 10 shared values for the whole school community. Celebrate one of these values, each month, through cross-curricular and pastoral activities throughout the school. Become a values based school.
– Invite parents to volunteer and become Parent Wellbeing Ambassadors for the school. This role can be developed in a number of ways : as an online twitter handle or Facebook page where they post and share relevant articles and posts to the wider school community; they can offer to run small ‘parent tea and talk’ sessions in various centres at various times; to help run whole school wellbeing themed events ensuring it is correctly targeted at parents. The parent ambassadors will come up with many more suggestions.
– Arrange extra-curricular styled family intervention sessions. This helps develop positive communication between parent/child and the family and the school and is all about spending quality time together and building relationships. For example: it could be a series of family bake-off sessions where parent and child are invited to learn, together, how to bake something new. The emphasis is not so much on the baking but on the positive quality time spent together in school.
– running ‘resilient parenting’ workshops for different year groups. These should be largely subsidised by the school or the local council encouraging parents to come on board with the language of what is mental wellbeing and the meaning behind ‘resilience’
– Running year group #familyMH5aday campaigns where you give a list of activities for the family to complete embracing 5 lifestyle concepts which promote positive mental health…. G-Give; R-Relate; E-Energise; A-Awareness; T-Try something new. The image below are a list of some of the activities they could do over a period of a few weeks.
Building trust and relationships and encouraging positive communication and shared values between the family base and the school is central to truly developing a ‘flourishing’ culture of wellbeing in a school.