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Schools are supporting young people’s emotional wellbeing…

by Megan – 8th Feb 2018

School and support staff from all across Leeds, key influencers in young people’s mental health, myself and my fellow MindMate Ambassadors, all in one room and all passionate about improving the social and emotional health of young people… what an exciting day!

The MindMate Champions Conference this week involved different training workshops covering interesting topics regarding young people, such as mindfulness and gender diversity. The staff received advice and helpful information to take away and use in their school or setting.

Early experience: how much does it matter?

My favourite workshop was run by Leeds Infant Mental Health Service. We learnt about two key parts in the brain, the limbic system (where we feel emotions like stress) and the pre-frontal cortex (the logical part, where we plan).

Teaching at school generally seeks to build the prefrontal cortex, however this part of the brain can’t be engaged if the limbic system is activated e.g. you feel anxious / worried. So, to help us learn we must feel calm and be able to regulate our emotions. Interesting!

Babies and attachment

On a more sensitive topic, we learnt that babies have an innate drive to be closer to caregivers as a way of seeking protection and comfort. This attachment helps the child learn what to expect from others, based on how their caregiver responds to them, and this difference in response causes different types of attachment. I found learning about the different attachment types very interesting; where they originate from and how they can affect us positively or negatively from infancy to adulthood.

What can schools do?

Perhaps best of all was seeing the school and support staff learning how to best support different attachments in children. The staff were given lots of brilliant advice, including encouragement to consider how they can emotionally nurture the children in their school or setting, and how understanding a child’s attachment could help this.

Two comments have stuck with me:

  • “Rather than asking yourself what’s wrong with this child, ask what might have happened, to cause this behaviour.”
  • “A child that’s better understood can be better helped.”

If this interested you, you could ask your school about what they’re doing to support the social and emotional wellbeing of their students and if they have signed up to MindMate Champions programme.


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