We had prepared our content for this week’s blog prior to the Prime Minister’s statement last night. Our theme this week is “Promoting help-seeking’, or, “lean on others when necessary”, an aspect of the Resilience Framework with relevance for adults as well as children.
At this time, the Bill Withers lyrics seem particularly pertinent, so I have attached them in full here, and you can maybe find time to enjoy listening.
Ruby has been looking at the research in this area:
“During times of stress, talking to people in your community whom you already have developed relationships with has a number of benefits including feeling a sense of relief, developing a closer bond with the other person and experiencing empathy and compassion (Savva, 2015). Both having a sense of belonging in a community and receiving support from people in those communities have been found to be significant protective factors that promote resilience (Werner, 1993). A common concern that people have is that if they share their worries with others it will negatively impact them, but sharing and discussing your feelings and coping mechanisms with family and friends is mutually beneficial (Public Health England, 2020).” Below, Beverley offers some suggestions for gathering the views of children about what they find helpful, and Rebecca has been thinking about how adults in school can boost their own resilience through ‘leaning on others’.
Helping children to talk about what helps them…
Over the next few weeks or months, we are likely to be thinking carefully about helping children make a successful transition back to school. When planning this, it will be important for us to gather information from one source in particular – the children themselves! One of the ‘Rights of the Child’ (as stated by the United Nations Convention) is that children have the right to have their views listened to and taken into account. There is now good evidence that listening to children’s views tends to have a significant positive impact on their self-esteem, communication skills and motivation. In addition, by equipping them with these skills, we play an important part in helping children and young people to become adults who are able to advocate for themselves and ask for help when needed. Understandably, if children are asked for an opinion, but their views are ignored without explanation, the impact is worse than if they had not been asked at all. This will be something for us to bear in mind. We don’t need to worry if they ask for things that aren’t practical though – explaining why we can’t do something, or even better, involving them in thinking of an alternative, helps avoid this negative impact.
Some children may be able to express their views through discussion with a familiar adult, but others might best suited to other methods. Listed below are a few suggestions for how we might gather children and young people’s views about what would help them transition back to school.
We might gather children’s views by asking them to…
- Take photos or find photos (e.g. on the school website) to form the basis of a picture or discussion. This might include things they like about being at home, what or who they miss in school, what they are looking forward to about being back in school, what they are worried about, or what they think might help them.
- Complete a card sort activity. For example, sort cards depicting different types of support they could receive before and after they return to school into columns entitled would, might, and would not help me.
- Complete a survey (online or on paper).
- Draw pictures. For example, draw themselves ready at the school gates. Draw what happened in the weeks before to get them ready. Draw what and who is waiting for them in school to help them settle back in.
Lean on others when necessary: promoting help seeking behaviours for school staff (and other adults)
The act of seeking help and giving help are said to support teacher resilience (BPS, 2020). The British Psychological Society report that there is evidence relating to some teaching staff associating 'asking for help' as a sign of failing or weakness.
It is really important during these times of uncertainty to look after each other and your own wellbeing. I have seen many instances when staff encourage pupils to ask for help or support in the classroom. But are staff able to do this for themselves? Teaching staff should be encouraged to lean on others and trust that others can help and support them when needed. It is helpful for staff to identify who to go to when they need support, and where they can go for some ‘self-care’ time.
Buddy up – knowing that there is help on hand can feel containing and comforting. Not everyone wants to participate in collective chats, so having one link can be helpful. Build in opportunities to check in with each other. This can be done verbally throughout the day or through messaging systems. It may be an idea to set up an agreement which works for both parties to look out for each other in a non-obtrusive way.
Share good practice – we learn best from one another. Share with each other what you have found helpful/unhelpful in pressurised situations.
Also, share guidance and advice from specialist support systems, include trade unions.
For example, National Education Union have shared information about ‘distance teaching.
Express yourself – find a way of expressing how you are feeling. This can be by talking to someone in or outside of school or finding creative means of expression (writing, music, art or sports).
Go back to basics – during a time of change focus on the basics of eating, sleeping and exercise.
Getting away – is there a place in school that staff can access if they need some time to themselves? This may include a garden or an outdoor bench. Is there a way staff can communicate they need “time out”?
Modelling help seeking behaviours – sometimes taking the lead and showing by example can be helpful.
Creating opportunities to invite feedback and enabling pathways for staff to inform decision making processes.
This may include having a noticeboard in the staffroom with opportunities to express feelings
Asking staff explicitly if they need help and support. What this might look like? How and at what times can staff communicate their needs?
You can download Rebecca's suggestions as a pdf here.
We have been listening to….
Review by Lucy Thompson
“I’ve spent over 20 years studying the emotions and experiences that bring meaning and purpose to our lives, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: We are hardwired for connection, and connecting requires courage, vulnerability, and conversation.” This quote perfectly sums up the new podcast from Brené Brown, Unlocking us. Having worked on a Netflix special last year, Brown started this Podcast at the start of April focusing on creating conversations about developing relationships with different dynamics, and how we can use the support and guidance of others to help us with our own journeys. She is able to bridge disparate topics such as science and spirituality whilst developing theories on what it means to be human.
You might have missed…
Following on from our recent ‘Green Care’ blog, and thinking more about the benefits for children of spending time outside, you might be interested in reading this piece about outdoor schools in Scotland: “Scotland eyes outdoor learning as model for reopening of schools”.
As the period of ‘lockdown’ continues, relationships within families may be coming under strain. This helpful advice sheet from the Anna Freud centre offers reassurance that what we are feeling is normal, and some helpful tips for maintaining family life at this time: Top tips to help families work together and support one another during the coronavirus outbreak.