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Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing
Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

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5.3 The potential impact on children’s education

Some very young children may have caused concern in relation to their social and emotional expression. As a result, they may have been assessed and their needs identified. However, for some children, prior to attending formal education, such needs may go unnoticed and it is not until they encounter group situations with multiple demands and expectations that problems start to become evident. Conversely, a number of children with significant mental health issues can go unrecognised for long periods after attending formal education because they are not a ‘management problem’ in the classroom or at home.

The more formal requirements of school may be a challenge to very young children who are at the early stages of developing peer-related social skills, which take time to develop. In addition, the expectations of school may be very different to those at home and an inconsistent approach can be confusing for children. With careful management, such issues can often be resolved.

However, some children with problematic behaviours may find it significantly more difficult over time to initiate, establish and maintain healthy relationships with adults and/or peers. They are also likely to find it difficult to regulate their emotions.

Here are some of the indications that a child is experiencing difficulties in school:

  • withdrawn behaviour
  • challenging, overactive and/or disruptive behaviour
  • tantrums and ‘meltdowns’
  • over-controlling behaviours
  • panic attacks
  • lack of attention and focus
  • mind seeming to go blank
  • irritability
  • low mood
  • low levels of energy
  • extreme tiredness
  • poor self-esteem
  • lack of confidence
  • little motivation
  • increasing levels of anxiety
  • feelings of insecurity
  • mistrust
  • avoidance of contact/emotional comfort
  • school refusal.

Children will have their ‘ups and downs’ so it would not be particularly concerning for a child to experience some of these listed issues on any given day. However, when a child is experiencing several of these issues on a regular basis, and they are negatively impacting on their functioning, then a full assessment of their mental health is warranted. A child’s SENCO can help in arranging for such an assessment, or a parent can request that the child’s general practitioner refer the child for an assessment at the local CAMHS.