How are you all?
I’m sure you can agree that growing up in school is hard. Not just from an academic perspective, but from a social perspective too. Schools can be quite cutthroat, with little groups and cliques, all vying for popularity and a position in the ‘social order’. Together, these factors can have a very detrimental effect on the youth of society, attributing self-esteem and self-worth to the opinions of others instead of what you think about yourself.
To combat the negative effects of cliques and social hierarchy on mental health and social skills, there are a few different things that schools can do. Note that this is just one take on the issue but there are bound to be plenty of different opinions and solutions to the problem.
School clubs both during and after school offer children a great way of not only discovering a new lifelong hobby and developing a skill but enabling them to meet new people in the process. This is especially important for breaking down the usual clique system in schools. The majority of students stick to their group of friends and rarely stray away from them, primarily because they feel like they won’t share anything with those outside of their circle. Clubs get around this issue.
By presenting students with a central interest that is individual to them, it’s easier for them to break out of their groups and mingle with classmates that they usually wouldn’t engage with. Not only does this change the school hierarchy and reduce issues like bullying, but it improves student social skills and long-term mental health. It’s a win-win really.
A Good School Playground
Particularly for younger school children, an effective school playground can completely change the school experience and help children build relationships with each other. To help ensure this succeeds, a healthy and effective school playground needs to be varied and designed with social access in mind.
The reason why schools should have a playground with a variety of equipment is to attract children with all tastes. All too often, children with specific desires are alienated from the playground because they don’t see anything which appeals to them. Keeping in mind that some children prefer to climb and be active, whilst others just want to sit and talk, is a big part of a successful playground that promotes mental health.
Building on this, playgrounds must have areas for social interaction to truly fulfil their potential. The school playground is where children go to relax and turn off – giving them room to socialise whilst they’re at their most relaxed is easily the most healthy and natural way for them to learn social cues and conversation skills which will benefit them in the future.
It’s commonly known that exercise and physical activity are good for mental health, the issue is that many schools think they are addressing the need for exercise with P.E. lessons when this isn’t the case. Countless students dislike and avoid P.E. lessons, because of the contest and judgement that comes along with exercising along their classmates. Schools need exercise opportunities that are inclusive and non-judgemental or graded, so that the students who are usually embarrassed and never take part are pushed to get involved and benefit from the experience.
Some of the best ways to achieve this are through termly or bi-termly sports days or charitable sporting occasions where everyone is encouraged to get involved and feels rewarded for taking part. It’s a difficult balance to find but when it works, it’s brilliant for mental wellbeing.
I’m sure some of these school issues will resonate with you, which is why this post is so important. Hopefully, it will help schools assist students struggling with their mental health.