Our daughters’ school years are an important, transformative time to grow, both physically and emotionally. To mark Children’s Mental Health Week, we have been considering this year’s theme of Growing Together – the manner with which we grow as people, in our hearts and in our heads. Good mental health helps our children to develop resilience and optimism, in order to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.
Something which may upset children in our Nursery probably doesn’t feel quite so bad by the time they reach our Senior School; as they grow and develop, they learn to cope with life’s ups and downs. Whilst our girls all thrive on the positive experiences which life at The Abbey offers in spades, they learn just as much from challenges and setbacks which can really frustrate them. The simple act of trying something new or stepping outside their comfort zone, as scary as it may seem, does really help them to grow. An essential ingredient in their lives is people who support such growth, especially when things get a little tricky or tough. For our students, that comes from their parents, teachers, school Counsellors, student Mental Health Champions, Emotional Literacy Support Assistants and even our Therapy Dog – all those who help them to believe in themselves, keep going and encourage them to do something differently or view things from an alternative perspective. We remind our students daily – through assemblies, morning yoga sessions, wellbeing lessons and meditation in our Quiet Room – we are all growing and learning together as a school. In turn, we encourage them to be the support for their friends and family: together, we form a network enabling our children to feel loved, trusted, understood and safe.
Physical growth of our students is obvious – from young children in our Early Years setting, they journey through our school and rapidly morph into teenagers, emerging from our Sixth Form as young adults, ready to embrace their ambitious destinations. We also have a clear lens through which we can gain clarity over their intellectual growth – knowledge and skill acquisition, meaningfully applied through agency to make a difference in the wider world. What’s not so easy to recognise and understand is how we grow emotionally – yet it is a vital part of every child’s development.
If we time-travelled and gave advice to our younger female selves, what might this be? Perhaps it would be to relax into our friendships easier with kindness at their heart. Perhaps it might be to encourage ourselves to ask more courageous questions, whilst feeling at ease with the fact that there aren’t always right answers (except, perhaps, in Maths!). Perhaps we would put less pressure on ourselves all the time and rest easy in the knowledge that sometimes we can be wrong about things. Or maybe it would be to reflect on something we did or were particularly proud of, or were about at that time – with confidence, authenticity and a good sense of self. Would we persuade ourselves to step outside school to look at how we can support our local area and community, while being more sociable and active? It is – after all – small, daily rituals like these at The Abbey that help to boost our students’ wellbeing over time. Above all, we acknowledge that the smallest step in the right direction can end up being the biggest step of our life. “Tip toe if you must, but take the step…every day, they add up…”.
This week, we encouraged everyone in our school community to explore how we have developed together and to celebrate how, even through difficult times, with the right support, we continue to progress and flourish. We asked ourselves: Who in your life brings you positivity? Who motivates and inspires you?
The past few years have been challenging for us all, so it is vital that we look after our own mental health in order to support each student in our care. We hope you join us on our mission to make 2022 the year of the positive mindset, because – where there’s optimism and good well-being – principled, moral intentions and actions will surely follow. What more ought we to desire, as a school?