The theme for #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek 2022 (7-13and February) is ‘grow together‘, which recognizes that emotional growth can often be gradual and that sometimes children can feel ‘stuck’.
The uncertainty and inconsistency of surrounding environments can contribute to reduced levels of emotional intelligence or slowed emotional growth.
As the second anniversary of the lockdown approaches in March this year, the extent to which children’s emotional growth has been affected by the pandemic continues to be a crucial topic of research and discussion.
In March 2021, Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, launched The Big Ask, a survey of children aged 4-17 which received over 500,000 responses revealing hopes, fears, stories of confinement and children’s dreams.
Fortunately, the responses showed that 8 out of 10 children are ‘well’ or ‘happy’. Interestingly, the survey revealed that many children understand how closely linked mental health and physical health are.
Responses also showed that 1 in 5 children are concerned about their mental health, reflecting the 21% of children who chose “anxiety” as the first word to use when discussing health and well-being in 2021. Oxford University Press (OUP) survey
It is increasingly widely recognized that spending time outdoors, physical activity and collaborative experiences are essential parts of the mix to foster personal development. Providing children with the environment and tools to open their minds to new challenges and adapt to different situations, individually and as a team, improves confidence levels and builds emotional safety, fostering a generation of resilient children .
Leading provider of outdoor education programs, inspiring learning, works with people of all ages, from toddlers to C-Suite directors, to develop life skills, with outdoor activities focusing on building confidence, resilience and teamwork as a principle fundamental to every activity. Since 1980, more than one million children have attended Inspiring Learning’s day and residential camps and, on average, more than 165,000 young people attend its residential camps each year in more than 35 countries around the world.
In June 2021, Inspiring Learning conducted a boarding school survey of 300 teachers to find out their views on the benefits of traveling to boarding schools and how the well-being and mental health of children has been affected by the boarding school. pandemic. Improved resilience, confidence and well-being were ranked as the most important benefit of boarding school trips, and 84% agreed that children should spend part of their day outdoors . 65.3% agreed or strongly agreed that children had lost part of their childhood to the pandemic (25% were neutral) and 74.9% agreed or strongly agreed that the resuming residential school trips would have a positive impact on the mental health and well-being of their students.
Being active outdoors increases energy levels, and it can improve mood and have a positive effect on sleep, all important factors for character development and improving self-confidence, while Shared physical activities help develop social skills, better equipping children for relationship building. in the future life. Now that children have regained their freedom from confinement, they again have the opportunity to be active and interactive, to develop their minds and to participate in experiential adventures which can help channel energy and regulate emotions, essential to a child’s growth and development.
Richard Thomas, Executive Director of Skern Group, part of Inspiring Learning, which offers bespoke educational programs for schools and businesses, as well as apprenticeship training, has decades of experience delivering outdoor learning:
“Completing a team assault course requires not only physical energy, but also a positive mindset, communication and consideration for others,” he says. “A science day held outside in the pouring rain, observing river flow, depth and bank erosion, will have children buzzing with their day long after it’s over, and is bound to be an experience that will be recorded in their brains and remembered as a challenge overcome with topics learned and a story to tell over and over again.
Identifying the mental health benefits of physical and outdoor activity adds enormous value to the experience, not only for children, but also for teachers and families. Commitment, focus skills and enthusiasm are attributes that have been noted to improve and shine through outdoor experiences, with the added benefit of creating memories for years to come.
Another division of Inspiring Learning – Kingswood – offers residential adventure stays for schools and groups.
Executive Director Guy Chadwell explains how Kingswood integrates three core learning outcomes into activity programs and their delivery – confidence, resilience and life skills:
“A residential experience builds self-confidence and encourages collective approaches, improves social skills and sharpens emotional intelligence. Through carefully designed and adapted activities, based on learning outcomes, young people can face new challenges that require perseverance and determination. Setbacks should be seen as a positive learning experience and failure as an opportunity to grow.
Forming and maintaining positive relationships, managing and articulating emotions, exploring and engaging with the surrounding environment are essential for healthy emotional growth. By introducing children to new horizons and encouraging them to push their limits in a safe and supportive environment, self-confidence, empathy and resilience improve, preparing children for the myriad of opportunities, challenges and joys of life to come.
Jof Gaughan, general manager of Inspiring Learning’s Camp Beaumont day camps, emphasizes the value of its activities during school vacations.
“Day camps are an opportunity to add immense fun to functionality and create an environment where children can accomplish so much without realizing it. They can engage in new physical activities that are not part of their daily life, they can connect meaningfully with other children while developing social skills, they can be encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and build their self-confidence, learning along the way that taking part in a challenge is just as important an accomplishment as winning.
Ellie Websdell, Executive Director of In2action, part of Inspiring Learning, provides expertise to the education and leisure sectors through transformational education, concept and program design, and training tailor-made for the corporate sector, to shape reputation and raise standards, says:
“We strive to see all generations of people unleash their potential and grow from ‘good’ to ‘great’. Through outdoor experiential learning opportunities, we see people’s body language change as they become more relaxed, we see them become more engaged and motivated. By designing outdoor education programs with real purpose, we can aim for great results and happy people who can aim high with improved confidence, social skills and resilience, as we step out of lockdown .
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