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4 Strategies For Helping Children With Emotional Problems At Boarding School

Vincent Paget

February 4, 2019

As many as one in five teenagers suffer from some form of mental health issues, according to Teen Mental Health. With that in mind, it's crucial that boarding schools are fully equipped with effective strategies for supporting children with emotional problems.Helping pupils work through their problems is tough at any school. At a boarding school, the pressure is increased because staff are responsible for pupil wellbeing 24 hours a day.So what are some strategies and programs that boarding schools can put in place?

1. Keep Track Of Every Little Thing

Emotional issues can manifest as physical symptoms, such as stomach upsets or nausea.

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than a cure. Boarding schools are responsible for their children around the clock, so naturally, have access to information about how they are performing during the school day as well as what's happening after hours. Being able to combine this information to understand what is normal behaviour for a particular pupil can really help to identify issues before they have time to escalate into bigger behavioural problems.Emotional issues can manifest as physical symptoms, such as stomach upsets or nausea, so keeping track of visits to the school nurse is key. Additionally, some children will display particular social behaviours, such as completely removing themselves from situations where they feel uncomfortable, like quitting extracurricular clubs. Logging club attendance and involvement in other events, therefore, provides another indicator of potential problems.Boardingware provides space to record pastoral events quickly and easily so that they are available to all staff as soon as possible. Students can be placed on a watchlist as soon as concerns are raised, and extracurricular activities and attendance can be recorded too. Exporting the data to graph or list format allows pastoral staff to keep an eye on any usual behaviour and intervene early.

2. Open Communication Lines Between The School And Parents

If a pupil is feeling troubled, it's important that both parents and the school work together to provide support. It doesn't help if either party are out of the loop when a pupil leans on them for advice, or if they provide different solutions to the boarder's problem.Having measures in place to ensure parents are kept up-to-date makes this easy. Boardingware has a messaging facility, with parents able to respond directly from their phone without the need for longwinded email chains. They can see what their children have been up to which helps them to identify unusual behaviour, as well as making sure they know their child is attending lessons or sports practices without the need for pupil or staff to provide reports.

It's often first instinct for a pupil with emotional problems to call home.
For pupils with emotional problems, calling home can be their first instinct.

3. However, Don't Allow Unlimited Access To Parents

Boarders are more likely to call home when they are upset about something, which can give families the impression that everything is awful. When children arrive at a boarding school for the first time, they may well feel sad, lonely or homesick once the initial excitement wears off or before they've made good friends. It's important to recognise that this is normal behaviour and that students will work through these feelings as they get used to boarding school life.Limiting phone calls home to pre-arranged times or to a set number of conversations per week forces boarders to make use of in-school support strategies. Whether children experience anxiety about their homework, how they fare against their peers, their ability to organise their belongings or get their washing done, they are unlikely to be the first person to do so. It's important they learn how to access the support available to them independently, making use of in-house expertise and experience.

4. Empower Them With Knowledge

Organising internal events around emotional wellbeing offers students the opportunity to learn about their feelings and what they mean.

Giving students the power to make informed decisions about their own care, and adapt their lifestyle helps them long after they leave boarding school. Hosting guest speakers or organising internal events around emotional wellbeing offers students the opportunity to learn about their feelings and what they mean.Sessions about relaxation skills or ways to improve their quality of sleep, for example, allow boarders to implement strategies themselves, under the guidance of experts. Educational talks also help friends understand what they can do to help, and what other children may be going through - especially helpful with issues that can be outwardly obvious, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Schools can help pupils improve their emotional wellbeing long after they leave school by giving them strategies to implement themselves.
Providing children with strategies for improving their emotional wellbeing helps them long after they leave school.

5. Provide Several Points Of Contact When They Need To Talk

If a pupil is feeling the need for support, whether due to feelings of anxiety, depression or any other kind of worry, they need to be able to talk to someone they feel comfortable with. Part of creating a safe environment for children is providing several points of contact so they always feel able to talk.Schools can provide counsellors who offer regular therapy sessions or have older high school children act as mentors. It's also crucial that all teaching staff know the procedure for passing on information and what kind of responses are appropriate, in case a pupil chooses to confide in them.For more information about how Boardingware can help your school provide emotional support, contact us to request a free demo or book a slot to talk to our friendly team.

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Vincent Paget

Vincent Paget is an Operations Manager at Orah based in Auckland, New Zealand. He loves technology, organisation, nature and adventure sports, not necessarily in that order.

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