It is Children’s Mental Health Week next week (1st-7th February 2021), and the theme this year is ‘Express Yourself.’, working on sharing feelings, thoughts and ideas through creativity. This focus has come at a crucial point during lockdown 3.0 where everyone is struggling, including the children we work with.
Throughout this pandemic, more than a quarter of children aged 5-16 have reported having disrupted sleep since the first lockdown. 1 in 10 have reported feelings of loneliness and 18% felt fearful about leaving the house. 1 in 6 children now has a probable mental health condition, which is a huge 50% increase since 2017.
We know exercise helps improve mental health, Select Psychology has created a list of all the benefits of exercise for children:
- Exercise helps our brain to release serotonin, a chemical that helps to regulate mental health.
- Physical activity stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which improves mood.
- Young people who participate in team sports learn social skills and gain confidence.
- Children who develop physical abilities and learn new skills feel more positive about their bodies.
- Physical activity distracts from stressful and negative thoughts.
As PE specialists, what can we do?
- Give your children plenty of active moments throughout the day. Allocate a specific part of every day to physical activity. If your children are learning remotely, this could be a little video or a set activity for them to carry out during that time.
- Remember that one of the best things about PE is collaboration and teamwork, so get creative and allow this to happen, even if you are all apart. Each child could create a 4-8 beat dance routine to a certain piece of music that you then take and put into a full routine montage to share.
- Create opportunities for teamwork and competition. At the moment this may need to take place from a distance, but there are plenty of options out there. It could be a virtual distance challenge where classes compete against each other to walk the furthest, or it could be individual skill challenges where children work independently.
- Use your sessions as good opportunities to discuss emotions and feelings, particularly linked to movement. For example, children could rate themselves on a scale of 1-10 for energy or motivation levels both before and after your session to see if the scores improve. Be aware of safeguarding needs, if this is taking place remotely.
As well as thinking about your students’ mental health, please also think about your own. We are all finding it hard at the moment, and taking time for yourself is vital for ensuring you stay on top of your game. Education Support has some great advice and resources to help you stay well during this time.