The mental health and wellbeing of children are important all year round, however, each year we raise awareness for children and mental health for one week in February and each year brings a different theme to bring inspiration to those taking part.
The theme this year was brought to us by ‘Place2Be’ and it is ‘Find Your Brave’
The theme this year has been faced with some controversy. With many people saying that Place2Be is making poor use of the word ‘brave’.
I can see where they are going with this theme, trying to encourage children to speak about their thoughts and feelings by telling them that it is brave to do so. Many children associate the word brave with the likes of superheroes. Therefore telling a child that they are brave is often seen as a complement to them. However, superheroes choose to fight crime, they choose to put themselves in scary situations, thus making them ‘brave’; no one chooses to have a mental health condition, they do not choose to have to deal with it… they have no choice but to do so. This is why many people believe that the word ‘brave’ should not be used when talking about mental or physical illnesses.
I definitely think that we should be encouraging children to open up more, we should treat children with respect and kindness so that they feel as though their thoughts and their feelings are valid and deserve to be heard. In order to do this, we need to listen to children all of the time, when they are babbling, when they are repeating the same stories over and over, when they come to us to share something that they have found, or tell us something that they think is incredible, even if the things that they are saying do not make sense to us, even if it is something small and may seem silly to us… it may mean the world to them and therefore we should hear them out!
When a child opens up about something that is bothering them, it is important not to judge them. Instead, you should reassure them that they did the right thing by confiding in you, reassure them that things will be okay… and if you are not that child’s parent or guardian, you should never promise to keep what they are telling you a secret, as sometimes information needs to be passed on to parents or social services depending on the nature of the information that they have shared with you. It is important to always have their best interests at heart.
Children are the future. We should be teaching them resilience, teaching them trust, helpful skills for the future and not just the basic school curriculum.
There is so much more to life than learning about maths, science, geography, art, music and so on and so forth. Yes all of these topics are important and yes they should be taught, but I think that more effort needs to be made when teaching social skills, citizenship and self-help.