Emotional Well-Being of Children in the Classroom





Emotional Well-Being of Children in the Classroom

By Alexis Noel Shoffstall & Katie Stringer  



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Background Information  


Nationwide, cities and states have been adopting a variety of initiatives over the past decade to address the rising need for mental health care in schools. It used to be an assumption that mental health was mainly a concern for adults. However, mental illness can set in much earlier than adulthood. More than half of lifetime mental illnesses begin before age 14, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Yet the average person waits 10 years after the first symptoms occur before getting treatment.


Mental Health America (MHA) – founded in 1909 – is the nation’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. Mental Health America was also established by former psychiatric patient Clifford W. Beers. During his stays in public and private institutions, Beers witnessed and was subjected to horrible abuse. From these experiences, Beers set into motion a reform movement that took shape as Mental Health America.





What is emotional well being in a child?

Below are a few videos that we recommend watching to better enhance your understanding of what the emotional well being of a child looks like.


"A positive sense of well being enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life; people in good mental health have the ability to recover effectively from illness, change or misfortune."

Emotional wellbeing does not mean an absence of emotion or stress, rather it relates to a person's capacity to understand and regulate their emotions in a healthy and adaptive way.

Social and emotional learning: A schoolwide approach. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmVhO3nL2EM

Building supportive environments: Setting rules and expectations. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6qIa2CanBM

What is emotional well being in a child? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8b_bAJEaBC4




Important Classroom Strategies







1. Know the emotional needs of all of the students in the classroom and what factors need to be considered to meet those needs.

 2. Confront these emotional needs through various methods within the classroom. These methods are both in large group and small group settings and can also occur peer interactions as well as on an individual basis.  






Helpful Reading Materials



                                           Image result for sean m brooksImage result for Children's Mental Health and Emotional Well-being in Primary Schools: A whole school approach by Colin Howard        




There are a wide variety of materials available to parents and teachers who are trying to understand the social and emotional needs of their children and students. We have a few readings listed below, and we also encourage educators to find books to read in the classroom. There are many children's books who speak to the emotional well-being of the child, and it can be a great way for the student to relate and see him/herself in the right context.


1. The Mental and Emotional State of School-Aged Students by Sean M. Brooks, Ph. D.

2. Attachment in the classroom: The links between children’s early experience, emotional well-being and performance in school. British Journal of Special Education, 33(2), 103


3. Children's Mental Health and Emotional Well-being in Primary Schools: A whole school approach by Colin Howard

4. An Educator's Guide to Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools by James Hollinsley

5. I am Confident, Brave, and Beautiful by Hopscotch Girls

This groundbreaking coloring book is all about building a girl's confidence, imagination, and spirit! The 22+ coloring pages encourage girls to think beyond social conventions and inspire conversations with adults about what it really means to be confident, brave, and beautiful.





What Should Educators Know?  

Often times, as educators, we are unsure of how to handle the needs of all of our students. Even though teachers are not always formally trained on how to handle these situations, there are some helpful tips to help navigate through the process.

1. The symptoms or concerning behaviors of mental health issues should be understood. Some of these may not individually confirm a mental health problem, but these common signs should be carefully noted.


2. The individuals that should be consulted if these signs or symptoms are recognized with a student. These individuals could be school administrations, school counselors, parents or any other professionals or relevant personnel.

3. The mental health services relevant to their careers and the ways to contact them when necessary.   




Additional Resources   

We were able to have an interview with Dr. Sean M. Brooks. Below we have a few questions from the interview, as well as his advice for parents and educators. Keep in mind that each situation is different depending on the child, school, home life, and overall environment.    

1. What do you believe is the most important strategy, for educators, to learn when it comes to promoting the emotional wellbeing of children in their classroom?            


The ability to listen.  Educators ignore some of the most verbal and vocal negative comments because of laziness and their inability to manage the situation effectively.  This happens all of the time and administrators are guilty of this as well. Neglect is hands down the greatest abuse that occurs in school, and it begins with an inability to listen and be fair with students.  When an educator is fair, every student sees this and it’s contagious. Students will run to a fair educator for help, if they not only see them as being fair, but they know they are fair. That positive reputation will spread throughout a building.


2. What should educators know and understand about the delicacy of a child’s emotional well-being?

Any time an educator can learn about children’s background/family life, on their own time, the better.  This is not an activity that needs to take place within a classroom or another school activity. In fact, I don’t recommend it.  This must remain private. Fortunately, most information is on the schools digital system and you may learn about their family, or other needs (i.e., divorced family, history of violence, health problems, learning disabilities etc.)  In many cases, this will be shared with you, but in other cases you will have to do these searches for yourself.


3. Is there a type of training program or seminar available for educators and  parents to educate them on this subject? Do certain schools offer this, or community centers?


      Sadly, no.  If higher education does not do it, don’t expect K-12 schools to do it.  If it’s done, its falsely done in the form of a program rather than a formal education, like what you would read in a book/books.  Some counselors may address a school’s staff; some social workers or school psychologists may do the same. But if you ever have a process question I recommend making an appointment with the schools psychologist.  Just talk with them about reporting abuses, a students history, family life etc.

4. What would you say to someone who is having difficulty understanding and communicating with a student who has a mental disorder?        


Usually, the most severe are isolated with specified teachers and other like-minded students.  If you have one of these students, it never hurts to talk with the parents directly or do some homework with other staff members about the family before you contact the family directly.  Sometimes those who know more than you will help out.

5. What can an educator or parent do if their school doesn’t offer a variety of services for mental disorders? Who can they reach out to, to get the help that they need?


Counselors usually have references and sheets of references for parents so they can receive outside help, counseling or psychosocial help for their child.  In the end it’s not up to the school systems to provide actual help; it’s the parents responsibility. But, the school systems can have references on hand to give parents.  Most K-12 school systems also have health departments (in another building separate from the school) with the same information.

Just remember, it’s not the job of the teacher to play counselor or psychologist.  That role is for someone else. However, the more an educator reads about these subjects, the easier they may recognize characteristics of specified behaviors.  Then you can document in writing your thoughts and observations in case a parent conferences is scheduled.

PS:  Be careful about ADHD and jumping to conclusions.  This is hands down the most over-diagnosed and misdiagnosed “conditions.”  Don’t ever make a diagnosis. Sadly this is not up to you and the final action is not up to you either.  This may be one of the saddest parts of the profession; watching the unqualified destroy the mind of a maturing child.  Sadly, many people like to flex their “professional muscles” and play “doctor.” Don’t let this happen if you can help it.                






Behaviors for Teachers to Watch

It is very important for teachers to be on the lookout for any possible signs of distress in a child's life. Whether you notice a change in behavior, or social interactions, here is a list of behaviors for educators to be aware of.


*Contact parents and school administration if a child demonstrates one or more of these behaviors:   


1. Student is sad/depressed or unfocused in the classroom for more than two consecutive weeks.  

2. Student intentionally hurts themselves or speaks of ideas they have to do so. This can be something shared with others or can be expressed through their work in the classroom.  

3. Student begins panicking at random instances with nothing provoking them. The panicking could also lead to increased heart rate and breathing.  


4. Student engages in physical altercations with others or expresses that they wish to physically harm others.  


5. Student refuses to eat, throws up after eating, or takes substances in order to force weight lose.  

6. Student expresses extreme concerns that prevent them from engaging in their normal activities.  

7. Student is unable to focus or remain still in the classroom to the extent that this interferes with the environment of the class and could potentially lead to physical harm or other problems.


8. Student continually either drugs and/or alcohol.  


9. Student suffers relationship struggles as a result of dramatic mood changes.  

10. Student displays extreme actions in their actions or in elements of their personality.


11. Student exhibits uncontrollable behaviors that have a potential to cause physical harm to themselves or others around them.       




Practices for Teachers


Encouraging the mental health of students is very important, but the practices that support this may be different for different students. Some of these supporting practices are:  


1. Teachers as well as parents and students  need to initially be informed as to what the symptoms are that indicate mental health issues. In addition to the symptoms, individuals also need to be informed on how to provide support in these areas of concern.   

2. Teachers should encourage not only the emotional, but also the social well being of students. Encouraging these is in terms of regulating them effectively and learning to recover or express endurance while dealing with them.   


3. Teachers provide a welcoming, safe, and uplifting environment in their classroom.

4. Teachers promote positive actions, conflict resolution, and choices whether these are new lessons or repeated reminders.  

5. Teachers inspire students to help one another.


6. Teachers help students to find the mental health resources provided through the school.





Mental Health Programs in Schools

Mental Health Programs in schools are important to help students in the classroom as well as school programs that can help students outside of the classroom as well. These programs are intended to help encourage the emotional well-being of children, prevent issues regarding mental health, and offer treatment for mental health problems. School programs that are effective in these intentions:      

1.Encourage the mental well-being and development of all children regardless of whether concerns or symptoms are expressed.


2. Take note of symptoms displayed that indicate mental health issues or concerns that can lead to these.


3. Recognize the means to make an early interference to help resolve issues using pertinent methods.   




Additional Methods to Support the  Mental Health of Students




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1.Develop a plan to evaluate the mental health needs of individuals within the school. These needs could be common among students in the school or they could be very diverse. The plan of evaluation also should continue into a plan for implementing strategies for a program to address those needs.


2. Form a guide to conversation with students/children after a difficult or traumatic event that can help students work through struggles related to these. The impacts of events can vary from one individual to the next, so the plan must be applicable to diverse individuals.







Brooks, S. M. (2018). The mental and emotional state of school-aged   students: What exists and what educators can do. Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Brothers Inc.

Early Childhood Videos. (2017, January 17). Building supportive environments: Setting rules and expectations. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6qIa2CanBM

Edutopia. (2015, October 7). Social and emotional learning: A schoolwide approach. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmVhO3nL2EM

Edutopia. (2001). Social and emotional learning: Strategies for parents.  Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/social-emotional-learning-parent-resources

Hanko, G. (2006). Attachment in the classroom: The links between children’s early experience, emotional well-being and performance in school. British Journal of Special Education, 33(2), 103. Retrieved from https://proxy.lib.miamioh.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,url,uid,cpid&custid=s9002934&db=ehh&AN=21279441&site=eds-live&scope=site

Kelly. (2015). Supporting children’s emotional wellbeing. Early Years Careers. Retrieved from http://www.earlyyearscareers.com/eyc/latest-news/supporting-childrens-emotional-wellbeing/

Knitzer, J. (2002). Promoting the emotional well-being of children and families: Policy paper no. 1. National Center for Children in Poverty. Retrieved from http://www.nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_369.pdf

Mental Health. (2017). Talk about mental health: For educators. MentalHealth.gov: Let’s Talk About It. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/educator

Mental Health America. (2018). Our History. Mental Health America. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/our-history

Raver, C. C. & Knitzer, J. (2002). Promoting the emotional well-being of children and families: Policy paper no. 3. National Center of Children in Poverty. Retrieved from http://nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_485.pdf

Tipz, L. H. (2017, November 30). What is emotional well being in a child? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8b_bAJEaBC4

Vestal, C. (2018). States begin requiring mental health education in schools. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://namivirginia.org/states-begin-requiring-mental-health-education-schools/
























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