Mental Health Awareness Week provides a great opportunity for schools and families to normalise the discussion around mental health and to start a conversation about the things in our daily lives that can affect it.
This year, the theme of the week is connecting with nature and how this can improve our sense of 'wellness'.
Nature can be used when working therapeutically with children and this is something we do routinely to promote children’s wellbeing.
Sometimes we will ‘walk and talk’ together with a child during our sessions together as it can often feel easier to talk about our feelings when we are walking side by side rather than when we sit inside face to face.
At times we engage in pretend play together outside, for example building a secret den which can help connect with a child’s imagination and boost their confidence.
We might talk about the colours we see around us in nature to help children express their feelings, for example yellow flowers might make us feel happy, or perhaps the blue sky makes us feel calm.
We try to engage the senses too whilst out in nature with our children. This can help to soothe and de-stress and helps us to connect to the natural world around us.
We take time to listen to nature’s sounds with our children and encourage them to notice smells like flowers, leaves or freshly cut grass.
Talking about feelings
Given the year we have all been through, talking about feelings is one of the most important things we can do for children - both at home and at school.
This isn't always an easy thing to do; some children are burdened and full-up following the experiences they have had during the lockdowns and teachers - ever practised in doing this, are finding it hard to reach some pupils who may be struggling and in need of help.
We have prepared a little story about Horace who is holding on to all his feelings; he thinks that's the right thing to do, but he is soon feeling overwhelmed.