In this article, Dr Gina Dahel, Head of Department at the International Medical Clinic's Children’s department, discuss the effects of stress on child development and what we can do to help our children monitor and assess their mental health. We also have Nysa Kaprani, our Year 8 student from EtonHouse International School Orchard, sharing her personal coping mechanism when she is overwhelmed. Read Part 1 here.
Q: How do you know if the stressful situation my child is having is just a 'phase' or one that will endure for long?
Dr Gina: Generally, it is very difficult to know until it is reviewed retrospectively. There are times where your child is feeling negatively, but with a positive mindset, they will bounce back, try again, or brush it off.
If the negativity is impacting their day to day life, their relationship with others, their ability to go to school or perform well in school then it is worth looking into it and seeking help. Early intervention and early identification are key as mental health issues not only affects the child, it affects the whole family.
Even if it may be just a phase, it should not put one off from getting help. Seeking help earlier will help a child to get better quickly so it doesn’t manifest into something more serious.
Q: Nysa, would you like to share how your school has helped you to manage stress and what are your personal approaches to managing stress when you are feeling overwhelmed?
Nysa: In my primary years at EtonHouse Broadrick, we attended talks on changes that are happening to us as we grow older and in those sharings, they also taught us the way to mentally prepare ourselves for these situations. At EtonHouse Orchard, there were informative sharings on meaningful topics such as bullying. EtonHouse Orchard also offers counselling as support to students.
Here are my coping mechanisms against stress. Everyone has their own way of coping with stress but these three methods always work for me.
- Addressing the stressful situation with someone, sharing your concerns or issues with your parents, siblings, friends, or a counsellor provides you with a fresh perspective on the subject
- Taking a break to do an activity that you enjoy (art, dancing, reading) helps you to gather your thoughts and come back stronger
- Journaling to reflect on the highlights of your day and how you could have dealt with the stressful situation better helps to reset your mindset
Q: How do schools like EtonHouse support their students' mental and emotional well-being?
Bipasha (EtonHouse): Schools have an important role in supporting children’s well-being as they spend a lot of time in school.
Some of our campuses collaborated with The Contentment Foundation in the US to build sustainable well-being practices for staff and students. Our Middleton International School is also the mothership school in Southeast Asia and the first to formalise the connection with the Contentment Foundation that provides schools with a well-being curriculum that is scientifically evidenced and philosophy grounded.
Staff well-being has also been a focus as there’s a trickle-down effect in supporting student well-being. So over the years, we have introduced initiatives like regular check-ins with staff, mindfulness jars, and recruiting and training more counsellors and teachers to support well-being in school. Our leadership team is also upskilling themselves on mindfulness practices so that they can lead the process.
We also taught our students explicit vocabulary to describe emotions, equipping them with the ability to identify and communicate their emotions and offering counsel to students and families who need it.
We also regularly conduct in-school and public workshops and talks to help students, staff, and parents cope with different challenges.
In conclusion, fostering a supportive and positive environment helps your children cope with the stressors and challenges in life. You can listen to the full webinar recording below for more tips on improving children's mental health.
Click play to view the full webinar recording