Being involved in positive change can boost children’s mental health

A bold and imaginative approach to boosting children’s post-lockdown mental health and wellbeing would include a coordinated effort — involving parents and schools, young people’s organisations like Scouts and Guides, and community-driven initiatives — to offer every young person encouragement and, more importantly, easy-to-access opportunities to make a positive difference to the environment.

We know that children are interested in — often passionate about — environmental matters. In a recent post we referred to a 2020 survey by Natural England of 1,501 children aged between 8 and 15, which found that 83% of respondents agreed that being in nature made them very happy and 82% agreed that they would like to do more to protect the environment.

These figures were in line with a March 2020 survey carried out by the BBC Newsround team. Their survey of 2,000 children aged 8 to 16 found that:

  • four out of five respondents said the problem of climate change was important to them, and more than a third said it was very important
  • just three out of every 100 said that the environment wasn’t important to them

We also know that the Covid pandemic has taken a huge toll on children and young people’s mental health. The Newsround survey was particularly noteworthy because of the evidence of ‘climate anxiety’ among young people. Almost three in five of respondents said they are worried about the impact that climate change will have on their lives. Almost one in five (19%) admitted to having a bad dream about climate change.

The Newsround webpage ends with a number of tips for their readers on how to deal with their feelings of anxiety. These include:

Be involved in positive change – small efforts can make a difference and if you can’t control the rest of the world it’s easier to control what you do in your life! This might include walking, cycling and taking public transport to get around, and thinking about sustainability in your own life.

Encourage your school or family to be more eco-friendly. Seeing the ways you can influence others can help you feel more optimistic about making a difference.

from the Newsround webpage, Climate anxiety: Survey for BBC Newsround shows children losing sleep over climate change and the environment

These tips tally with advice for parents issued by the NHS Every Mind Matters campaign:

Being active or creative, learning new things and being a part of a team help connect us with others and are important ways we can all help our mental health. Support and encourage them [children] to explore their interests, whatever they are.

from the NHS website, Looking after a child or young person’s mental health

Young People’s Trust for the Environment (YPTE) is one of many organisations passionate about the environment and keen to actively involve children and young people. It is a charity which aims to encourage young people’s understanding of the environment and of the need for sustainability.

We want to give young people a real awareness of environmental problems, such as climate change, disappearing wildlife, the pollution of soil, air and water, the destruction of rainforests and wetlands, the spread of desert regions and the misuse of the oceans.

from the Young People’s Trust for the Environment website

Prominent backers of the charity include John Craven and Naomi Wilkinson, both familiar faces from television and both particularly associated with nature-related programmes.

The YPTE website includes lots of resources for children of all ages, including online educational games, factsheets and home learning packs, filled with fun activity ideas. There are also lesson plans, printable factsheets, videos and various downloads available for classroom use by teachers.

The YPTE website features in the Links area of the Forum website. There is a page for each of the nine life-based learning themes, with links (a) to sites with teaching ideas and resources for immediate use in the classroom and in curriculum planning (b) to a range of information-rich websites relevant to life-based learning.

We are always looking to expand the Links area of the website and welcome suggestions for additional links to high-quality websites. You can contact us here.

The image at the head of this article is from this page of the MyLondon website.

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