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Mental Health

Supporting our Pupils and their families

Mental Health Support - Parents

At school we have noticed an increase in anxiety, stress and some aggression in some of our children. We are concerned about the children exhibiting these behaviours and have been wondering if some of the increase is in part due to the COVID pandemic.

We are keen for children to get support for any mental health issues they may have in a non-judgemental manner whilst also understanding their power as an individual to develop a positive and growth mindset.

Whilst we will do all we can to support the children in our care, we recognise that much of the support needs to come from the home, with this in mind we thought we would share some information and strategies that you may find helpful in the home (see below).

We would urge parents and carers to seek support if children’s mental health escalates.

My Happy Mind

Where to access additional support

Advice for children and parents on a variety of mental health issues

  • Urgent support call 111 for the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline, available to people of all ages in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire
  • If already using CAMHs contact them directly during office hours (9am-5pm)
  • Ask a professional to refer your child to CAMHs (CAMHs Berkshire: https://cypf.berkshirehealthcare.nhs.uk/)
  • Urgent support call 0300 365 1234 (Mon-Fro 8am-8pm) out of these hours contact the Crisis Team on freephone 0800 129 9999.
  • Refer to CAMHs using the online referral form

Supporting your child at home

 As a parent, understanding the links between brain and behaviour can be enlightening. You may want to help your child understand how our brains work, why they deal with situations in certain ways and, crucially, how we can begin to modify our responses.

The 3 parts of the brain it can be useful to explore with children are:

  • The Pre-frontal Cortex (the wise owl): responsible for helping us learn, think, plan make good decisions and interpret our decisions.
  • The Hippocampus (the intelligent elephant): situated in the primitive part of the brain, important for remembering information and storing memories.
  • The Amygdala (the loyal guard dog): also situated in the primitive part of the brain. When operating from this part of the brain we react quickly with a flight, fight, freeze and faint response. This is useful when there is a real threat but sometimes it activated when we are angry, upset or worried.

 Conquer the Amygdala Hijack

Here are some activities you could try at home to understand the brain.

Ages 3-6 

Feeling Factory 

Help young children identify what they are feeling and how to describe it. Very often, behaviour difficulties (amygdala hijacks) are a result of a young child not having the words to describe what they are feeling and being overwhelmed. Practice by acting out faces and guessing each other’s feelings so that children become more familiar with different expressions.

Ages 7-9 

Settle your glitter! 

Take a small plastic jar/bottle with a screw-on lid and fill it almost to the top with water. Add glitter glue/glitter. Screw the lid on tight and shake! Or use a snow globe.

Talk with your child about how the jar is like your brain. Notice how hard it is to see clearly when the glitter is spinning. Compare it to when the amygdala is in charge and it’s hard to think clearly and make good decisions. When the glitter has settled, compare it to what it’s like when the amygdala is calm and you can access your prefrontal cortex and make good decisions. 

Ages 10-11 

Have your child get familiar with things they can do to counter negative emotions. Some ideas might be exercise, deep breathing, writing feelings down, spending time with friends or family. 

Mindful Awareness

Mindful awareness through focused attention is a valuable skill for both children and caregivers to learn and master. Children and adults who learn that mindful breathing helps to calm them down, which in turn allows them to think more clearly and act in a reflective manner, will be better able to regulate their emotions, reduce stress, and make better decisions.

Here are some activities you could try for teaching about the breath.

Ages 3-6 

Have your child lie down on the floor and have a bean bag/soft toy on their stomach. Instruct them to quietly watch the object rise and fall with their breath. 

Blow bubbles together and watch them fall to the ground. 

Use pinwheels to practice using your breath making them go fast or slow. 

Ages 7-9 

Use the ‘smell the flowers, blow out the candle’ image to help children develop the skill of focussing attention through breathing. 

Use a focussing tool like a glitter wand or liquid timer to help your child practice mindful breathing, 

Ages 10-11

Cotton ball activity 

Each person has a cotton ball.  

Practice 1) blowing it past an object 

Practice 2) blowing it to hit a target  

Practice 3) practicing a gentle breath to push the cotton ball from the middle of the palm of the hand to the fingertips without letting it fall. 

Five finger or Hand Breathing – all ages

An activity that can be used at a time when children are feeling overwhelmed.

  • Spread out your hand and stretch your fingers like a star. Use the pointer finger of the other hand to trace around the outline of your hand and fingers.
  • Start at the base of the thumb and slide up the side, pause at the tip and slide down the other side.
  • Continue to do this with each finger in turn.
  • With each finger breath in through your nose as you slide up and out through your mouth as you slide down (sone children with find it hard to breath through their nose).
  • Doing this can help slow the breath down.
  • Once finished they will have taken five slow breathes, they made need to take another five.

Some further activities to aid relaxation and tension release