This year's Children's Mental Health Week, championed by Place2Be, runs between 6th-12th February 2023 and focuses on this year's theme of Let's Connect.

Creating meaningful connections is the mission of the theme of Let's Connect. Children are nourished by supportive and well connected communities, and having a healthy connection with family, friends, and others is essential for children's mental health and overall sense of wellbeing.

What better way to celebrate Children's mental health week than by building connection and sharing practical ideas for connecting with other children, teachers, staff and families

Why is connection important for children's mental health?

Connection is one of the most important things for children's mental health

When children feel connected to their families, friends, and communities, they are more likely to flourish. Conversely, when children feel isolated or unsupported, their mental health can suffer.

According to positive psychology research, forming and maintaining meaningful relationships is one of the essential components of human psychological welllbeing and is essential for the prevention of mental health problems.

Positive relationships are one of the core pillars of the SEARCH Pathways (R for Relationships) to wellbeing we base all our wellbeing work in schools on.

There are many ways to connect with children, and it's important to find what works best for each individual child. Some ideas include spending time together talking and sharing experiences, participating in activities together, and simply being there for them when they need you.

Here are some ideas for how you can support your pupil's wellbeing during Children's Mental Health Week.

Importance of positive relationships for children's wellbeing

Having strong friendships is incredibly important for children's wellbeing, both now and in the future. Positive relationships offer a sense of belonging which can help children build resilience, develop healthy communication skills, and learn to trust their own instincts.

For these reasons, it is essential to encourage friendships at home and in the classroom, support social activities that foster meaningful connections, and provide guidance for young people about creating positive relationships. Through fostering friendships and other positive connections with friends, family members and peers, you can provide children with the opportunity to gain confidence, feel safe and secure in their environment, as well as create meaningful connections.

Using Pupil Voice for Developing Connection

Encouraging pupil voice is an essential strategy for any whole school approach to mental health and is recommended by the UK government as an approach all schools should take. Therefore asking pupils to share ideas, campaigns and strategies for how they want to support peer wellbeing is an effective step in building a connection.

The ideas they come up with will help build connections in ways they find interesting and engaging, but they also build connections and positive peer relationships through the process of taking part in pupil voice discussions and activities.

Our Wellbeing Ambassadors programme provides a structured programme and training that supports pupils to provide peer support as part of your whole school approach. Find out about how one primary school are using the Wellbeing Ambassadors programme to build connection.

Building Connection and Trust with Other Children

Whether it is with peers in school or in the local playground, helping children learn how to nurture their connection with other children is an essential strategy for mental health. Discussions around friendships and how to make friends and identify positive relationships are simple ways to start building the skills to form healthy connections.

Establishing trust is a key factor in having a positive relationship, exploring the concept of trust, what it is and how it is build trust between peers and how it is broken helps children understand how trusting relationships are developed and can change. This helps children recognise trusting peer relationships that create a sense of belonging and safety – two important components of maintaining wellbeing.

Kindness for Developing Connection

Kindness is a core quality that helps to foster positive relationships with for pupils and peers. Kindness isn't just about being polite, it helps create trust between children; research suggests that being kind to others helps create meaningful and lasting social connections.

Kindness doesn't necessarily mean being nice all of the time, but rather treating people with respect, and understanding and actively listening to their stories or experiences. Kindness toward other children can also lead to increased wellbeing for all involved, particularly when it's practised frequently; it's an important way in which we can show our care and love for those around us.

Our kindness activities ideas article provides a whole set of ideas for developing kindness and wellbeing in schools.

Importance of Peer-to-peer Support for children's wellbeing

Supporting our children’s emotional well-being is of utmost importance as we equip them with the skills to make life’s transitions smoother, manage relationships effectively and provide an overall sense of wellbeing.

One way to help foster their wellbeing is developing a structured peer-to-peer support programme or intervention in your school. Training children in ways to build rapport and effectively communicate, actively listen and share strategies for wellbeing are the foundations for a peer support wellbeing programme.

Trained wellbeing ambassadors can encourage other children to build a network of trusted peers and give each other emotional understanding, compassion and comfort, they help role model healthy peer relationships and share wellbeings strategies that lessen the possibility of feeling overwhelmed, worried or stressed when tackling new challenges.

Learning how to rely on your peers can also be beneficial for their long-term academic success, leading to improved grades, motivation and engagement in school – all factors that are a crucial part of looking after our children's mental health.

Mrs Georgina Watkins, Wellbeing Co-ordinator at Burley Oaks Primary explained how the Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme is building connection in her school for children

'...if we can get a whole ethos of mental health and wellbeing and that being kind and looking out for others, then being happier as a result. Because we know what to do to make ourselves better, or we know what to do to help someone else make themselves feel better.
Of course, then you've got more smiles, you've got a calmer, happier environment. People are socialising better making each other laugh and are able to feel comfortable in the space that they're in and who they're with. And they learn to accept praise and give praise to each other and be helpful. And it can do nothing but good can it so it's brilliant.'

Benefits to your school by building connection and wellbeing

Building connection and wellbeing in your school is essential for pupil development. Sharing a theme like let's connect creates a trusting, caring environment where everyone feels they belong. This will not only promote social-emotional learning, but also increase academic achievement and lessen behavioural issues.

When pupils trust each other they are more likely to speak up and become involved in the classroom. Connection and wellbeing activities can also help identify students who need extra support which allows us to provide individualised attention as teachers. By building connection and wellbeing with pupils you foster a positive school culture that fosters learning, growth, and support for all members of the school community.

Download our free Wellbeing Activities resource and get started building connection and wellbeing in your school today!

Wellbeing Ambassadors programme for primary schools

Peer-to-peer support is essential for children’s emotional wellbeing. The Wellbeing Ambassadors programme builds connection and wellbeing in pupils' that promotes a positive school culture that fosters learning, growth, and support for all members of the school community. Wellbeing Ambassadors is an amazing program for both secondary and primary schools. This practical programme provides teachers with the appropriate, resources tools and training to develop and lead supportive peer-support programme.

We are launching a Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme for primary schools soon join the waitlist here.

Find Out More

To develop wellbeing and resilience in our children we need to nurture their sense of connection. Research shows that the most important aspect of connection for young people is through supportive relationships with peers. By providing opportunities for peer support we can help prevent issues from escalating and have a positive impact on pupils mental health and wellbeing.

Our free Wellbeing Activities Booklet offers lots of practical ideas to help you achieve this in your school. Download it today and start making a difference.

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