LEARNING TO SURVIVE – EMPOWERING CHILDREN
Today was very overwhelming and undeniably emotional for me but today was above all, empowering. Listening to a panel of experts speak along with several young adults from the community share their stories about resilience and their mental health journeys felt empowering. Seeing an audience of several hundred people come together for one common purpose and with one common goal in mind was truly empowering.
Today I met some fucking incredible people and I learned many valuable tools and many more staggering statistics. I also learned that life is not all about winning, but more importantly it’s about learning to survive that matters. The symposium focused on how we as a society can help to empower our children and youth today as these statistics continue to rise and what we can do to help make this happen both at home and in the classroom.
There is a lot of debate about how early is too early to talk about mental health at home or in school and I could see today that everyone in attendance was in agreeance that we need to start talking about it from as early on as Pre-K. I certainly can’t argue with that and I have even written a children’s book now to prove it.
It’s not that anyone is asking teachers of young children to stand up in front of their class and start giving a powerpoint lecture on the psychology of the human brain, instead it’s about introducing ways for them to understand that they have mental health. It’s about teaching children the “culture of caring” by checking in on students regularly to ensure that they are okay, giving a friendly hello or high five as they pass them in the hall at lunchtime, it’s about finding a connection between each student and their teacher and it’s about making them feel safe so they can share their thoughts and feelings.
Starting to engage children more in mental health and wellness practices at a young age in school can be easily done through art, through music, through sport, through drama and through physical fitness as well. It may mean putting aside a geometry lesson for today in order to practice some mindfulness exercises or spending a bit more time on an art project which could give them better coping strategies, allow them to express their feelings better or help them to build better communication skills.
These activities and lessons should be front and centre in our school curriculums today and to be just as much of a priority as math and english are and I don’t just mean in Pre-K, but all throughout their formative years. Teachers are not meant to be therapists but by practicing many of these skill sets with their students will make them a better role model to their students and help more children thrive, help more children to erase the stigma for the next generation, help more students to become better equipped to understand that it’s ok to fail; in fact it’s imperative that they do so many, many times and hopefully this will help more of our youth and young adults left feeling more empowered than ever before.