Putting children in isolation in school risks causing them unnecessary trauma, according to a report by a mental health charity.
The use of isolation as a disciplinary measure risks damaging children’s mental health and can end up making behavioral problems worse as students become more disaffected from school, according to the study.
Instead, the charity urges schools to become more aware of the impact of trauma on their students, and to switch from punitive to positive behavior strategies.
The report comes as a campaign to end the use of isolation booths—where children are confined to booths with no contact with other students or adults—as a behavior management tool gathers pace. The Ban the Booths campaign has garnered support from MPs and is holding its first national conference later this month.
The use of isolation rooms is widespread in U.K. schools, as a way of removing disruptive children from the classroom.
But a report by the Centre for Mental Health today argues that the use of isolation is potentially damaging to children.
Children who have already had traumatic experiences are particularly vulnerable, according to the study, and may find such punishments “disporportionately distressing.”
While schools must record the use of exclusion, there are no such requirements over the use of isolation, with the result that there are no figures on how prevalent it is, although a BBC investigation in 2018 found that more than 200 children spent at least five straight days in isolation in the previous year.
And last year one mother revealed she is taking legal action after her daughter, who has autism spectrum disorder, attempted suicide after spending more than a month in isolation.
Tom Bennett, a former teacher and now the Government’s adviser on behavior in schools, defended the use of isolation in an interview with the BBC this morning, saying that students were typically removed for “extreme disruption, violence or rudeness to teachers,” rather than for trivial offences.
He said removing students from the classroom gave them an opportunity to calm down, without disrupting the learning of other children. The children who had been removed were supervised and given work to do, he added.
But one mother who spoke to the same program told how her son had been put in isolation from the age of 11 for relatively trivial offences, such as wearing a hoodie in the dining hall. Now 15, he has spent a third of his education in isolation, she added.
She said her son was not given work to do, and instead spent his time doodling.
The experience has transformed him from a outgoing child who enjoyed going to school, to one who has no confidence in authority and “sees adults as enemies,” she said.
Niamh Sweeney, a member of the executive of the National Education Union, told the BBC that children were often isolated for “small incidents,” such as having incorrect school uniform.
“Children describe sitting in isolation, having to look forward, not being able to have eye contact or contact with other people, and that does not deal with the cause or address, in any shape or form, the behaviour that the school is trying to change,” she said.
Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said attempting to improve behavior by isolating children will not work.
“For some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children they will entrench behavioural problems with lifelong consequences for them and their families,” she said.
I’m a freelance journalist specializing in education. My career so far has taken in regional and national newspapers and magazines, including Forbes, The Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. A lot has changed since I started covering education as a wide-eyed junior reporter in the early 1990s, not least the role of technology in the classroom, but as long as perfection remains just out of reach there will be plenty to discuss. I’ve been hooked on news since setting up a school magazine at 15, but these days I stick to reporting and let someone else sell the adverts, set the crossword and staple the pages together.
Then my son was eight, he asked if Santa was real. I didn’t know what to say, so I dodged the question. Naturally, he sought answers from the place that never let him down: the World Wide Web. When I spied him searching “Is Santa real?” on the iPad, I gently took it from him and asked, “Why do you want to know so much?”
“Because I feel like you’re lying to me,” he said, trying to blink away tears. He was distraught. I was too, because what had seemed like a sweet tradition was suddenly threatening the trust my child had for me. So I told him the truth—that Dad and I were Santa, and that we were never trying to “lie” about it, but rather, just to carry on something we had enjoyed as kids. He was surprised that I told him, and a little sad. But mostly, he was relieved.
A couple of years later, when my daughter was eight and wanted the truth, I had this same conversation with her, and she had a similar reaction: a tinge of disappointment, but mostly relief. Both times, honesty about Santa felt wrong, right up until the moment it felt right.
For the past three years, I’ve been researching what it means to be more aware of our own honesty choices instead of only focusing on the dishonesty in the world around us. And while the man in the red suit is an honesty dilemma for many parents, I’ve learned that it’s probably not as important as the other honesty choices we make as parents.
Unlike belief in Santa—which is something children grow out of—dishonesty is something children grow into, says Robert Feldman, a University of Massachusetts psychology professor who has studied lying for many years. In having children and adolescents purposely tell lies to mislead, he found that first graders were unconvincing liars, seventh graders were pretty decent, but college students were experts.
The reason they grow into lying is that we parents show them how to with our own behavior. One University of California–San Diego study found that preschoolers and young elementary schoolchildren who had been lied to by an experimenter were more likely both to cheat (they peeked at something when they weren’t supposed to) and then to lie about whether or not they peeked.
You might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you. I thought the same, until the evening my daughter and I were buying birthday favors at Party City. When I told the cashier that I didn’t have an email address when she asked for one, my daughter gave me the side eye. That’s when I realized I was teaching her how to swat off annoyances with little lies. (I now simply say, in a pleasant voice, “I don’t want to give you an email right now.”)
We always think we need a story that justifies how we feel, says etiquette expert Lizzie Post, great-grandchild of etiquette queen Emily Post and co-president of the Emily Post Institute. When there is no significant story, she says, we stretch the truth. These are the little fibs related to flattery, saving face, or protecting ego, such as making up a story about why you aren’t attending a family function or gushing with a friend over their new car when in fact you hate it.
“We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we also tell them it’s polite to pretend they like a birthday gift they’ve been given,” Dr. Feldman says. We want to raise kind children and be kind ourselves, except for the times when honesty is more important . . . which is when exactly?
Honesty seems like such a basic concept. So why do we get all tangled up in it, not just in parenting, but also in social situations, at work, and inside our most intimate relationships? It’s a two part answer: (1) the actor-observer bias— whereby we notice other’s lies more easily than our own—keeps us thinking we are more honest than we are (until our kid calls our bluff) and (2) much of what we think and say about honesty is just flat out wrong.
We don’t like to admit that we rely on what behavioral scientists call prosocial lies, or the lies we tell for the benefit of someone else. “It’s so deeply engrained in us to think lying is always wrong,” says Emma Levine, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, but her research has found that when you walk people through scenarios, they will agree that lying is sometimes the right thing to do.
I’ve noticed that I tend to use prosocial lies to build empathy, like if I see that someone is humiliated about a mistake, I might lie and tell them I made that same mistake when I haven’t. And you know what? I appreciate when someone does the same for me. On a trip last year, I tried to check into the wrong hotel (two sister hotels shared a parking garage) and felt like an idiot.
The valet attendant saw my embarrassment, and assured me he spent the majority of his day helping people who had tried to check into the wrong hotel. Did he really? Probably not. It was nice to hear though.
Prosocial lies may seem trivial, but these small moments can have a great deal of consequence in one-on-one relationships. On a reporting ride-along with a police officer last year, I noticed how patiently the officer listened to the story of a woman reporting a radio stolen from her truck. He handed her a card that assigned her a case number and told her how to work with the investigator. As we walked back to his cruiser, he asked me: “What do you think the chances of that case getting solved are?”
“Probably not very good?” I ventured.
“Pretty much zero,” he said.
“So, why bother with it then? I mean, I guess you have to, but if it’s just pointless, why not just be honest?”
“If she pursues it, we will, too. We’ll try. But in situations like this, people want to be heard. They want their story heard,” he said. “Most of what we do is just listen to people.”
Though we value people who “tell it like it is,” what this woman needed in that moment was to be listened to, more than she probably cared about recovering the radio. The next time she interacts with the police, it might be something more serious—like she could be a key witness in a case. He needs her to trust him, and the way to win her trust is through listening and caring.
Dr. Levine’s research supports the idea that prosocial lying can increase trust when someone has true insight into what the other person needs. Her research in healthcare settings has found that some patients prefer the brutal truth, while others want hope and optimism—but the doctor needs to know what the patient prefers, rather than imposing his or her own ideas about what’s best for the patient.
However, our prosocial lies go wrong when we let fear of the awkward conversation subsume what we know we should do. When an editor of mine was called out by another writer who told him that his style had become abrupt and condescending, he asked me if I felt the same way.
I did, but I froze, tried to skirt the issue, and ultimately said something like, “not really.” On the surface, it may seem kinder, but in fact, it’s cruel, because this person was asking for feedback. I wound up contacting him the next day, fessed up that I was frustrated with him, and we had a thoughtful and helpful conversation.
While that vulnerability isn’t easy, we tend to fear it more than we need to. In a study, Dr. Levine and Taya Cohen, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, asked people to be completely honest in their dealings with others for three days.
While people predicted that it would ruin their relationships and cause hurt and pain, quite the opposite was true. “They found so much meaning in being honest,” Dr. Cohen says. This is probably why my conversations with my kids around Santa wound up feeling so meaningful, versus ruinous, and why honesty also improved my relationship with that editor.
The biggest thing about honesty we get wrong is missing the opportunity inside conversations with our children about why we lie. Explaining the Santa lie wasn’t that complicated for me, because Santa ultimately belongs in the category of mythology. I’ve learned far more from other unexpected conversations—like when, on the way to a well visit with the pediatrician, my son said, “I’m going to be honest if the doctor asks about screens. You always lie.”
My first response was rising anger, but then I realized this was an opportunity. “You’re right,” I said. “I do tend to lie about it. I shouldn’t. But do you know why I lie?”
“Because it’s bad that I use the iPad so much.”
“It’s not bad. It’s just that doctors think kids watch screens too much, and they’re right. But I don’t always follow what they say. We shouldn’t lie to doctors about things to do with health, though.”
“But you do,” he said.
“I do,” I said. “Because a little part of me feels ashamed that I should be a better mom. I often feel like people are saying I’m not a good mom if I do certain things or don’t do certain things. I feel judged. Do you ever feel that way?”
“Yeah, about my behavior. I’m bad sometimes and I know it.”
What a golden moment to talk about the difference between how we act and who we are, and about the nature of shame and how it so often clouds our choices when it comes to honesty.
By opening up to my kids about my own struggles, I’ve not only learned things about myself that have helped me in my career and my relationships, I’ve also shown them that honesty is a dynamic concept that takes vulnerability, courage, and discernment—excellent life skills to have long after thoughts of flying reindeer have passed.
Has your child been lying to you lately? If so, it might not be as big of a problem as you think. In this episode of Mom Docs, Dr. Dehra Harris, a Pediatric Psychiatrist with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, shares some insight on why children lie and what you can do about it. If your child has been lying to you, it’s important to take the age of the child into consideration. In young children, lying marks the beginning of imagination, which is a normal developmental stage. Your child’s lying only becomes a problem when it’s part of a persistent pattern. If your situation involves your child lying often, try these tactics: Approach your child and, without getting emotional, present the information you know to be true. For example, if your child took money off the countertop, you can say, “There is money missing from the counter top. I need you to help me figure this out.” This approach leaves room for two different outcomes: #1. Your child lets you know what happened and they explain their story. #2. You inform them that you know what happened and they do not admit they lied. While both of these situations deserve a consequence, the second should be greater. Repeating this method when your child lies can help put the problem behind you. Visit Children’s MomDocs (a blog by mom physicians at St Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine): http://bit.ly/2fCVkzp Learn more about St. Louis Children’s Hospital – Find a Physician, Get Directions, Request an Appointment, See current ER Wait Times http://bit.ly/2g56onQ Want to hear more from St. Louis Children’s Hospital? Subscribe to the St Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/2cC0jgg Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stlchildrens Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/STLChildrens Learn More About Donating on YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/? The St. Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube channel is intended as a reference and information source only. If you suspect you have a health problem, you should seek immediate care with the appropriate health care professionals. The information in this web site is not a substitute for professional care, and must not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. For help finding a doctor, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line may be of assistance at 314.454.KIDS (5437). The opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individual writers, not necessarily St. Louis Children’s Hospital or Washington University School of Medicine. BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine assume no liability for the information contained in this website or for its use.
If you watched Coco Gauff’s third round loss in the US Open on Saturday, chances are you won’t remember the score or many details about the match itself; you’ll mostly remember how Naomi Osaka consoled the 15-year-old after her defeat.
And if you’re Osaka’s parent, you should be more proud of the kindness and empathy she showed than the big win she earned. Just two days before the sweet moment between the athletes, writer Anna Nordberg wrote for the Washington Post that parents put too much focus on their kids developing tenacity or grit and not enough focus on developing conscientious characteristics.
Clinical psychologist Lisa Damour tells Nordberg that what actually makes adults happy barely correlates with academic or professional success:
What it does correlate with is quality of relationships, a sense of purpose and feeling that you are good at what you do. “If you walk that back to look at what you can do as a parent, it’s raising conscientious kids,” Damour says. “When you’re conscientious, you tend to have better relationships, you’re caring, you’re not dishonest and you pursue things that have meaning to you.”
Maybe it seems obvious. Of course we want our kids to be good people. Of course we want them to be empathetic and kind and caring. We want our kids to work hard at their goals—even when things get tough—but we don’t want them to be the type of people who are more focused on their personal success than the feelings of those around them.
But apparently we’re not doing a very good job of getting that point across to our kids, at least not according to a 2014 study detailed in The Atlantic:
While 96 percent of parents say they want to raise ethical, caring children, and cite the development of moral character as “very important, if not essential,” 80 percent of the youths surveyed reported that their parents “are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others.” Approximately the same percentage reported that their teachers prioritize student achievement over caring. Surveyed students were three times as likely to agree as disagree with the statement “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my class than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
So how can we not only value empathy but also encourage it? Well, we start by modeling it. Kids are more likely to do as we do, not do as we say. Let them see you shoveling the sidewalk for your elderly neighbor, volunteering at the local food bank and buying gifts for families in need during the holidays. And when you catch them being kind—praise, praise, praise.
But Nordberg also writes that we should actually create opportunities that “encourage empathy, collaboration and kindness rather than waiting for them to spontaneously happen.” We should be empathy enablers.
Enlist older kids to help with younger kids, whether it’s at home with siblings or at school as mentors or tutors. Involve them in your own problem-solving brainstorms. Clear off the kitchen table and spread out the thank-you card supplies so they’ll actually write the thank-you notes. Seek out moments in which you can encourage them to be kind, and they’ll build those empathetic muscles while also recognizing the value you place on those characteristics.
And then, one day, your kid might be the tennis star who consoles their opponent while the world watches and admires.
Empathy is a skill that parents can work to teach their children through encouragement and emotional development activities. In this episode of Mom Docs, Dr. Dehra Harris shares a few tips for parents to ensure children develop healthy emotional habits and empathy skills. Visit Children’s MomDocs (a blog by mom physicians at St Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine):
Learn More About Donating on YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/?p… “The St. Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube station is intended as a reference and information source only. If you suspect you have a health problem, you should seek immediate care with the appropriate health care professionals. The information in this web site is not a substitute for professional care, and must not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. For help finding a doctor, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line may be of assistance at 314.454.KIDS (5437). The opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individual writers, not necessarily St. Louis Children’s Hospital or Washington University School of Medicine. BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine assume no liability for the information contained in this web site or for its use.”
As technology advances, devices with screens get more sophisticated, cheaper, and, for parents, more worrisome. The pressure to plop the kid in front of an iPad for hours on end is strong, but so is the sense of guilt that pushes some parents to ban screens altogether. The correct response seems to be somewhere between laissez-faire and digital teetotalism, and it’s up to parents to figure out how much and what kind of screen time is best for their kids.
A good place to start developing nuanced rules for screen time is dispelling myths that, while accepted as conventional wisdom, are actually closer to old wives’ tales. Here are four misconceptions that need to go away so parents can introduce kids to technology in a responsible way.
Myth #1: Interactive Learning Apps Always Help Kids Learn Faster
There’s no shortage of apps that purportedly help kids learn, but they’re not all created equal. Some developers, out to make a quick buck from parents, have little to no understanding of how children actually learn. That means apps that are labeled as educational to assuage parental fears may actually be no better than addictive puzzle games like Toy Blast.
Consider a Vanderbilt University study that attempted to establish if interacting with a learning app via swiping or tapping helped preschool children learn. Using a university-built word-learning app, researchers found that while girls did benefit from tapping a screen for visual rewards, boys did not learn as much. In fact, boys were more likely to tap willy-nilly without prompting.
This discrepancy makes sense when you consider how boys and girls develop differently. Between 2 and 5 years old, girls have better impulse control and better coordination. The app served them well, but it depended on skills boys didn’t have. They likely spent more time concentrating on the dexterity challenges and less time learning what the app was ostensibly meant to teach.
The lesson: Apps labeled as educational that lack age-appropriate learning mechanisms don’t do much for developing minds.
Myth #2: Introducing a Child to Technology Early Helps Prepare Them for the Future
Lots of parents introduce tech to their kids early in life in an effort to build skills that will help them in an increasingly tech-driven future. Unfortunately, that can mean they neglect crucial interpersonal skills that kids need to develop before the age of 6. No matter how sci-fi the future becomes, children will still need to develop emotional intelligence and communication skills that can’t be built in front of a screen.
Interpersonal skills require interactions with real, emotional human beings that affect how young brains develop. For a kid’s brain to be optimally wired for interpersonal skills, those interactions need to occur during the first crucial years. That’s why a pioneering researcher in the psychology of computers, Dr. Tim Lynch, recommends parents wait until their kids reach Kindergarten before introducing them to computing in any form.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, an early introduction to tech appears to be a threat to kids’ physical development as well. British researchers found that early exposure to screens had an adverse effect on a child’s dexterity. The effect was so profound that some children were unable to hold a pencil.
The lesson: To support the development of your kids’ emotions and dexterity, wait until school to introduce screens into their lives.
Myth #3: Screen Time Is Inherently Bad
While screen time panic has reached a fever pitch, there is a growing body of research that says screen time in and of itself isn’t so bad, and that a thoughtful parental approach can make it a positive in a child’s life.
One of the first major studies of time spent in front of the television found that engaging with a TV show can be beneficial as long as the content is educational. For instance, researchers found that watching Sesame Street was as beneficial for some kids as years of preschool education. And watching shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood correlates with increased emotional intelligence in kids who watch regularly.
But research also suggests that it’s not enough for parents to simply place their kid in front of a screen and hope they learn something. Screen time is much for helpful when parents are a partner helping their kids understand and interact with the content.
A Georgetown study found that kids learned better on a puzzle app when they were coached by an adult than when they followed an on-screen tutorial. Help from adults was a “social scaffolding” that helped kids learn. Studies like this are what helped define the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen time. These stress parental involvement in media consumption, including a personalized Family Media Use Plan developed in concert with a pediatrician.
So, what is actually bad about screen time? When screen-fed media is overconsumed by kids, they tend toward inactivity. The blue light that screens emit can also interfere with sleep patterns. So, the smart parenting solution is to set time limits for kids that include at least an hour of screen-free time before bed.
Myth #4: Video Games Are Inherently Bad
“Video Games” writ large have received a bad rap from parents, who only see mindless button-mashing, and politicians, who only see gratuitous violence. But conflating a game like Minecraft with a game like Red Dead Redemption ignores the realities of how video games affect kids.
It is true that the child psychology community is conflicted regarding the effect of violence in video games. But not all video games are violent. And besides, the reason violent video games might lead to violence is that they act as simulators. By selecting the right games, parents can turn the power of simulation into something positive for their kids.
Studies have shown that fast-paced video games can increase reading speed in dyslexic children, that strategy-based games promote problem-solving skills, and that world-building games like Minecraft promote creativity. Finally, controlling the main character in a video game prompts kids to see the world through their eyes and can help build emotional intelligence. Like books and TV shows, video games can also be used as learning tools.
But as with television and books, video games benefit from parental involvement. The problem of antisocial behavior connected to gaming is likely couched in the fact that parents allow kids to go into their virtual worlds alone and without guidance. In fact, parents would be better off joining them in those worlds, regardless of consolechoice.
Kids benefit from parents who recognize the achievement in mastering a game, and parents will be more empathetic and less wary of their kids’ gaming behavior if they recognize the effort they’re making to achieve a difficult task — even if that task is in a digital world.
We said grace. My 7-year old turned on one of my jazz records before bopping his way back to the dinner table to join us for our meal. A gentle vibraphone melody filled the house. The edges of our shiny white plates atop the worn hand-me-down dining table, framed grilled pork, a spinach salad, and some grilled pears.
As usual, we asked each other about the best and worst parts of our day. The conversation became incredibly silly. The 7-year-old claimed he’d seen a shark in the toilet at school (a lemon shark, to be exact). He hadn’t, but my 5-year-old, following suit, claimed his bottom had been bitten off by a toilet shark that day too. I reminded him that he’d have trouble sitting if that were true.
The 7-year-old giggled and chewed. It was all I could do to keep from springing from my chair and dancing a jig around the table in relief and excitement because the kid was eating. He was eating without whining. He was eating without us pleading for him to “just try it.” We weren’t watching him psych himself out and gag and cry while we watched with angry, frustrated expressions.
In fact, we hadn’t cajoled about eating for the last five days. We had not threatened. We had not made deals or bribes. We had not even made a suggestion.
After years of interviewing nutritionists about picky eaters, I’d finally decided to follow the one consistent piece of advice I’d heard from each and every one: “Put a healthy dinner on the table and then enjoy your family.”
We had not, particularly, been enjoying each other at the dinner table over the last two years since mandating nightly family dinners. And that seemed strange to me considering all of the amazing benefits eating together was supposed to have on my kids. Research by, well, everyone suggested family dinners could help my boys improve their grades, become more empathetic, and maybe even stay off the pipe.
But dinner was not always a positive time — mostly because of the 7-year-old’s abysmal eating habits and our reaction to them. He worried my wife and I. We stressed out about his nutritional intake. He’d eat peppers, carrots, and cucumbers. He’d eat anything breaded and baked, but when we asked him to eat perfectly delicious healthy meals, he’d literally turn up his nose and send us into a rage.
The bad attitudes were infectious. Even our adventurous-eating 5-year-old would become glum and unruly. Family dinners felt like a bleak culinary battleground. And that was exactly the problem. I’d been told so many times that parents just need to back off and make dinner a time to enjoy one another. Nutritionist after nutritionist told me that being a hard-liner could make picky eating worse and destroy the magic properties of the family meal.
So we backed off. We just stopped saying anything. And it totally shocked the kid.
“What’s this? I’m not going to eat it,” he said on the first day. It was stew. My wife and I shrugged.
“Whatever, dude,” I said, changing the subject to ask about favorite mammals. He barely touched a thing. My wife and I took deep breaths and bit the insides of our cheeks. We reminded each our silence was for the better.
The next day he protested again. Stir-fry. We told him he didn’t have to eat anything and struck up a 20-questions style guessing game. I learned that he knows a great deal about platypuses.
The next day was steak. He didn’t protest and ate most of what was on his plate while we giggled about an imaginative story his brother was telling. There was hope. But not much. The kid always ate steak.
But when he didn’t protest again at the next dinner, it was clear something was shifting. He absently nibbled as we talked. It was unbreaded chicken. Sure he wasn’t cookie-monstering his dinner down, but in just a few short days, the tone of our dinners had taken a dramatic turn. It was fun. We left the table with smiles, easing into our evening routine without frayed nerves.
By the time the pork hit the plate, and then his mouth, I truly felt like I was sitting with a different family. The 7-year-old was eating. My wife and I were smiling. The 5-year-old was feeling heard and involved. And the only trouble I had was in trying to figure out why saying nothing at all was somehow harder than saying all the wrong things.
Clearly, silence takes more energy than speaking when it comes to the health and well-being of a child. After all, as a parent, you are told that you are ultimately responsible for whether or not the kid not only survives but thrives. And a child who doesn’t eat stirs up a primal, protective, parenting instinct: if the child won’t eat, they will die. You must make them eat.
But that’s not a good enough reason for the pleading and deal making. If all a parent wanted their kid to do was survive, then why not simply give them nuggets and fries every day, forever and ever, amen? Because doing would defy logic. It would be unhealthy. But so is having contentious meals or displaying resentment towards your kids. And there’s no real advantage to it. The staredown sucks for everyone.
Also, kids are better at staying alive than we give them credit for. If they are hungry, they will eat. If they are happy, well, everything just gets easier.
Resilience lessons, peer mentoring, awareness campaigns and provision of early intervention may be valuable initiatives. But they do little to challenge the main causes of mental health issues – which are likely to be integral characteristics of a neoliberal economy, including austerity, global uncertainty and a highly pressured education system.
The British Psychological Society’s recently published Power Threat Meaning Framework also supports this viewpoint. It sees mental distress less as an individual medical issue, and more as an intelligible response to the social, material and cultural pressures acting on people.
Much of my experience is as a storyteller and community artist, and I coordinate the Things As They Are network for young artists with experience of mental ill health. I have found that young people with mental health conditions often have a keen perception of how the media, economy and society contribute to their problems. These large-scale issues are often beyond the scope of schools to address, but with a change of focus, the educational environment could move beyond firefighting problems to play a more fundamental role.
More time for play
A vital first step would be measures to reverse the shrinkage of what might be called the “youth public sphere”. By this I mean the space and time that is allowed for dialogue, self-expression, playfulness, exploration, development of personal initiative, and just plain chatting, between young people and caring adults.
These opportunities enable young people to understand the world around them and thrive despite adversity. But they have been dangerously eroded by closely specified curricula, performance-focused education systems and the decimation of the youth service.
I have witnessed conversations between young people too anxious to attend school sharing tips on how to get referred to a unit – because “they treat you like a human being there”, unlike in mainstream school.
Space to grow
At the risk of sounding bitter, I could also cite my own frustrating attempt to establish a lunchtime storytelling club with a group of keen, and vulnerable, young people in a local secondary school. The teachers were supportive – we wanted to establish a space where different “tribes” of young people could make friends and collaborate creatively outside the constraints of the curriculum, which allowed little space for creative writing or group work.
Yet with lunch breaks cut to 35 minutes to maximise lesson time and manage behaviour, and further shortened by frequent detentions, it proved impossible to build up a stable group, and teachers lacked the time to support the ideas for performances and projects from pupils.
It is widely agreed that education systems centred on exams place stress on young people, yet there is less understanding of their more insidious effect. That is, their tendency to reshape every exchange between teachers and pupils into something directed at an assessment goal.
They also squeeze out of the school day anything that does not contribute to this. Arts and sports activities dwindle away from the curriculum, and teachers find themselves less often in the informal, supportive roles of mentor, facilitator, and guide.
To thrive emotionally, young people need their own time and space, that is not explicitly directed at particular outcomes. This should be an arena in which diverse groups of young people can form their identities and agendas – perhaps with the non-coercive oversight of sympathetic adults. The arts provide some of the key forums for this – I gratefully remember the music teacher that helped me and my friends set up our band in the lunch break.
To try and tackle the challenge young people are facing, the government could start by mandating time and space in schools for exploratory, informal, and pupil directed activity. This could be done by reinstating leisurely lunch breaks and allowing for extracurricular activities within them. Arts and sports lessons also must be restored where they have been reduced within the curriculum.
The education sector should pay attention to solutions to the mental health crisis which arise from young people themselves – I’m thinking of the group of GCSE students whose protest on London’s tube trains proclaimed the human cost of pupil exclusions in a system focused on exam results rather than compassion and support.
As mental health campaigner Natasha Devon points out, self-harm is frequently a way of being heard. Perhaps then, if we help young people find other, more creative outlets, we might find it easier to hear what they’re trying to tell us.
More and more kids are visiting the emergency room for both attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts. According to a new study published on Monday, the number of suicide-related ER visits for children and teens ages five to 18 has nearly doubled since 2007, up from 580,000 to almost 1.2 million in 2015.
“The numbers are very alarming,” Dr. Brett Burstein, lead study author and a pediatric ER doctor at Montreal Children’s Hospital of McGill University Health Centre, told FOX 8, adding, “It also represents a larger percentage of all pediatric emergency department visits. Where suicidal behavior among the pediatric population was just 2 percent of all visits, that’s now up to 3.5 percent.”
The study, which appeared in JAMA Pediatrics, used data from the annual National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers analyzed children and teens from 300 emergency rooms across the country who were diagnosed with suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
In addition to the rising rate of visits, they found that the average age admitted was 13 years old and that almost half of the visits (43 percent) were for children between the ages of five and 11.
This came on the heels of a similar study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal, Pediatrics, which found that the number of young people visiting the emergency room due to “psychiatric reasons” between 2011 and 2015 was up nearly 28 percent. And in March, another national study revealed that the rate of depression among children and teens had increased over 60 percent since 2009.
The results have many medical professionals calling for improved mental healthcare for children moving forward. In Monday’s research letter, study authors explain that there is “a critical need to augment community mental health resources, ED physician preparedness, and post-emergency department risk reduction initiatives to decrease the burden of suicide among children.”
Abortion was the number one cause of death worldwide in 2018, with more than 41 million children killed before birth, Worldometers reports. Source: Abortion Leading Cause of Death in 2018 with 41 Million Killed
You may have heard people use phrases like “out of control” or “wild” to describe kids who have a hard time controlling their emotions and impulsive behavior. If they’re talking about your child, you might wonder if your child has a disruptive behavior disorder or ADHD. You might even think disruptive behavior disorders and ADHD are the same thing. Disruptive behavior disorders and ADHD have some things in common, such as trouble keeping emotions in check and doing risky, impulsive things. But there are big differences between the two that can affect the strategies used to help your child………..
Every situation is different, so there’s no set answer about how involved to get. There are many factors to consider in knowing how to help your child and It’s important for your child to learn coping and problem-solving skills. If there’s an academic problem at school, you may feel confident about when to jump in. But what if your child is having a social problem? Do you wonder how involved to get? There’s no set answer to that question. Each situation is different. Here are some basic things to consider……..