January 20, 2023
A practical way to support parents to understand and value your school approach to positive mental health and wellbeing is to share the same strategies that you are cultivating as a school inside and outside of the classroom. A helpful way of planning and mapping out that work is to select wellbeing strategies that fit into a framework for wellbeing that underpins your school wellbeing curriculum.
Having a shared wellbeing framework or curriculum makes it easier for parents and carers can become involved in contributing to your schools’ approach to mental health and wellbeing through using the same strategies for wellbeing at home with their children that you are using as a school. This can develop into a shared understanding of wellbeing and how to develop it both at home and at school.
All our programmes, workshops and training courses are underpinned by the SEARCH pathways to wellbeing. This is an evidence-based framework recently published by Waters and Loton (2019)(1). This framework was developed over several years through researching positive education interventions in international school settings. We have adopted the SEARCH pathways and use them with permission, to underpin all our work developing school wellbeing here at Worth-it.
These wellbeing pathways provide a framework to help explain how schools can develop pupil wellbeing, they can be used to engage and support parents to develop strategies for wellbeing with their children.
The framework is made up of these six pathways, we have provided a definition of that pathway and some suggested tips on how to support parents develop that pathway with their own children.
Strengths are existing qualities within individuals that arise naturally, feel authentic, are intrinsically motivating to use and energising.
Suggest that parents can recognise the strengths they see in their child, suggest that they label that strength use and provide positive strengths-based feedback. Working on strengths feedback enables both the child and parent to get a boost of positive wellbeing feelings. It also builds confidence and self- awareness in the child.
Emotional management is the ability to identify, understand and manage one’s emotions by understanding how emotions operate through our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
As well as developing awareness of emotions and strategies to help manage them an important thing schools can share with parents is the ability to develop positive emotions. Positive emotions are important for buffering against the impact of more negative emotions and help children to become resilient(2).
One simple tip is to acknowledge and experience more joy at home or as a family. How can you support families experience more joy together? Could you set a homework project that encourages them to reflect on something joyful or plan to do something joyful together?
Attention is our ability to focus, either on inner aspects of self, such as emotions and physical sensations or on external stimuli (e.g., the teacher’s lesson in a classroom). Awareness refers to the ability to pay attention to a stimulus as it occurs.
A simple task is to ask parents to simply notice when their child is giving their complete attention to a task or activity. This could be something like Lego, art, music or sport. Is their child completely absorbed and not aware of time or the things going on around them? This could mean this is a flow activity. Being in flow is associated with the development of attention and wellbeing(3). Encourage families to spend more time doing these flow activities.
Relationships this pathway concerns the skills required to build and support supportive social relationships as well as capitalise on momentary social interactions.
A simple task is to encourage positive communication, listening and nurturing positive relationships as a family. One primary school we worked with encouraged the explicit use of homework time as and chance to develop nurturing and positive relationships as the foundation for learning to occur. That this was the homework rather than the homework task itself.
Coping is defined as constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person.
Supporting parents to understand how their child perceives a stressful or challenging situation can be the first step in coping with it. Working with parents to help change the way they see that stressful situation into seeing it as a challenge that can be overcome can be a simple but highly effective coping strategy and is essential for developing resilience (along with everything already covered)
Habits are persistent and learned patterns and preferences in decision making and behaviour. Goals are formal milestones, endpoints, achievements or aspirations, that articulate what people desire, aim for, and are willing to invest effort into.
All of the above strategies can be cultivated into regular habits or be used to set goals to build each of these areas. Developing wellbeing isn’t a one-off task. It is thousands of tiny things that are done consistently and build up over time to make a big difference and build into sustainability wellbeing strategies that can be nurtured by schools, parents and as a family.
Our approach to supporting schools and materials for mental health leads cover this framework in greater depth and provide practical resources, training, and support.
These SEARCH pathways to wellbeing are implemented within each area of our whole school system model which is developed and becomes embedded over time. Ensuring a comprehensive and sustainable whole school approach to wellbeing.
To find out more how to work with parents as part of your whole school approach to wellbeing join our Wellbeing Club for Senior Mental Health Leads. Our programme that supports leads, through on demand training, coaching, recourses and support. Find out more here. Find out how you can access funding to cover the cost of Joining Wellbeing club for a year by accessing our Free DfE Funding Information Session.
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This article explores proactive and preventive ways to preventing bullying an integral part of any whole school approach to mental health.